Tue, April 6, 2004
Struggling to survive
REGENT PARK TOPS LIST AS REPORT SAYS NEARLY ONE IN FIVE TORONTO FAMILIES LIVED IN POVERTY IN 2001
By SARAH GREEN, TORONTO SUN
Poverty highlights 2001
Chasing the Dream
LIBIA CUBILLOS and Marie Elena Alas are the faces of Regent Park’s struggles. They are also the faces of the community’s strengths.
A United Way report yesterday painted a “deeply disturbing”picture of Toronto’s poor neighbourhoods — Regent Park at the top of the list — whereas disproportionate number of visible minority and immigrant families struggle to survive.
Cubillos, 60, and Alas, 55, faced uphill battles to find work and affordable housing, to learn the language and to make ends meet after moving from their homelands of Columbia and El Salvador.
The women were among a group caring for neighbourhood kids a decade ago when the idea for a business was born.
With funding from Dixon Hall, a local agency which began as a soup kitchen in 1929, the women took business and childcare training courses.
A decade later, they are now the SOS Childcare Network with a roster of 17 fully trained women to provide on-site childcare.
“The majority of ladies were on social assistance,” Cubillos said. “We wanted to find work. We wanted to find jobs. We decided to take training to help people here.”
“I feel like (Regent Park) is my home,” Alas added. “I want to be in SOS even when I retire.”
The report, Poverty by Postal Code, showed the number of poor neighbourhoods has exploded to 120 in 2001 from 30 in 1981.
It also shows poor families are now concentrated in high-poverty neighbourhoods, which have spread from downtown Toronto into the suburbs, including North York and Scarborough.
Adonis Huggins, program coordinator at Regent Park Focus which runs a multimedia program for youth, including a community newspaper, said stats don’t tell the true story.
“Regent Park is always seen in stereotypes and negative images,” Huggins said. “People pass by. They see buildings. They don’t see what’s happening inside those buildings.”
The Regent Park Community Health Centre tends to more than the neighbourhood’s ailments. It has nurtured a community garden as well as Pathways, a novel program for high school students offering TTC tickets, tutoring and future tuition.
Just the notion a community believes in them,” said community health manager Maureen Thompson. “They can go on to post-secondary education and do well.”
TOP 10 AREAS
According to a United Way report released yesterday, poverty is becoming more concentrated in Toronto neighbourhoods.
The communities with the most residents living below the poverty line are located in these neighbourhoods:
1. Regent Park, Toronto 72.8%
2. Regent Park, Toronto 59.1%
3. Flemingdon Park, North York 57.8%
4. Oakridge, Scarborough 57.1%
5. Morningside, Scarborough 50.9%
6. Glenfield-Jane Heights, North York 50.1%
7. Black Creek, North York 49.0%
8. Moss Park, Toronto 48.8%
9. Black Creek, North York 48.1%
10. Kensington-Chinatown, Toronto 47.7%
Source: Poverty by Postal Code, published by the United Way of Greater Toronto