Food bank usage across New Brunswick has seen a spike in usage in 2018. As Callum Smith reports, roughly 25,000 New Brunswickers used food bank services — including soup kitchens — each month in 2018.

“It was probably up 15 per cent over last year,” says Laurie Stewart, president of the New Brunswick Association of Food Banks.

“Because of the economy and the way things are,” he explains. “People were out of work. We seem to have more seniors that are going to need some help.”

It is with deep concern that we read of the 42 per cent decrease in the St. Albert Housing Society’s allocation for 2019. We worked for several years with the Society of St. Vincent de Paul and saw first-hand the housing struggles when we visited the poor in St. Albert.

Our concern is based on the following thoughts…

A Sarnia housing crisis that’s been brewing for months is the result of a ‘perfect storm’ of factors, says Inn of the Good Shepherd director Myles Vanni.

“A few things are happening, and some of them are really good success stories. But the negative, unintended consequence is that it’s taking housing away,” said Vanni, who brought his concerns to the Community Homelessness Initiatives Network (CHIN), a network of agencies that works on housing challenges and solutions.

One success story limited housing units is higher enrolment at Lambton College, especially among international students.

“They’ve done a tremendous job bringing in students from across the country, and around the world, and they all need housing, so that’s drawn a lot of the availability away,” said Vanni, noting a spike in rent prices.

The Progressive Conservative government is asking the city for suggestions on how to lower home prices and rents and increase the housing supply, but there’s no mention of a growing crisis in affordable and social housing, Coun. Stephen Turner said Friday.

In London 3,700 families are on a waiting list for social or geared-to-income homes, which also need $230 million in upgrades.

“We met with MPPs on this and the implication was there is not enough high-end housing,” said Turner, adding the government suggests lowering rents across all markets will result in lower rents for the poor.

“They were proposing trickle-down housing economics. It was absurd.”

Life is getting more difficult for a lot of people in Barrie.

Mayor Jeff Lehman recognized that recently when he targeted comments in the first speech of his 2018-2022 term toward the city’s need to address housing affordability and homelessness.

“I believe this council should commit to the goal of completing our affordable housing strategy goal by 2022, two years ahead of our plan,” he said. “There’s no reason why, in a prosperous Canadian town, we can’t ensure no one has to sleep out in the cold. By 2022, our goal should be that nobody in Barrie is actually forced to be out living on the street.”

Poverty has been part of our social fabric for at least the 175 years since Dickens wrote his novel. It’s hard to see it now as an emergency. If it’s getting worse these days, it’s because it is going through another cycle of neglect. Every so often we elect a government that builds a safety net to protect the vulnerable people among us. Then, when the net becomes too expensive and consumes too many tax dollars, we elect a government that will dismantle it. That’s where we are now.