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Activism

The Occupy Movement Has Changed the Narrative, But We’re Not Done

Posted July 8, 2014 by Stephen Elliott-Buckley

Recently, with the WEF spending the last few years acknowledging global income inequality is a problem, I’ve declared a kind of victory for the Occupy Movement: getting the lexicon on the 1% and inequality on the tongues of the sly gazillionaires who rule the world, and into mass consumption. Now we see that the CEO […]

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Environment

Ride this year’s horse to the rescue

Posted February 6, 2014 by Erich Jacoby-Hawkins
Which of these horses is a community volunteer?
That’s easy, the one that’s worth it’s weight in gold!

The New Year is often a time for making resolutions for personal improvement, such as giving up bad habits like smoking or developing good new ones, like exercise or better diet.

Well, now we’re at Chinese New Year, and in honour of one of the world’s oldest civilizations, perhaps this is a good time to make some resolutions that relate to the community and wider world.

One thing our community can always use is good, dedicated volunteers. Many things that society desperately needs seem to fall through the cracks of the capitalist market economy or fail to draw funding from vote-hungry governments. Yet the need is real, and the value you create by volunteering your time is incalculable.

As I write this, I am doing my overnight shift for Barrie’s Out of the Cold program, providing overflow space for men and women who find themselves without a space at any of the permanent shelters. It’s genuinely a life-saving program, because spending the night outside in the kind of winter we’ve been having can literally be a death sentence. The program runs 7 days a night for almost 6 full months, requiring about 1400 volunteer spots.

Although most positions are filled when the season begins, the overnight shift is always the hardest to keep staffed, and there remains a need for replacements and substitutes, male and female. It’s a pretty quiet shift; usually you can get some work done, or some reading. The breakfast shift also needs more people. If you can help out even just once a month, please find the online application at www.barrieoutofthecold.org/apply.php.

Another program always needing more volunteers is the Barrie Free Clothing Centre, which provides for the wardrobe needs of people who can’t afford to shop at the mall. Four-hour daytime shifts on weekdays or weekends are available, where you can help sort, fold, hang, and distribute clothing to the over 600 regular clients. To get involved with this project, visit www.Facebook.com/NiftyThrifty, email rightmove@sympatico.ca or call 705-252-6005.

Another worthy Lunar New Year’s resolution is to live more lightly on our Earth. As I was replacing a broken-down CD player last week, I noticed the new eco-fee on the bill. This is applied to new electronics based on their weight class, designed to cover the cost of recycling them at the end of their working lifespan. It’s a lot like the deposit you pay on beer, wine, or liquor bottles, or that we paid on pop bottles in my youth, except that instead of bringing your empties back to the store, you bring your old electronics to a licensed e-waste recycler who pays you for them, drawing upon the funds put into the stewardship fund with new purchases.

To make this process easier for you, we are excited to be hosting our 5th annual Earth Hour Super-Drive on March 29thin support of Off the Rack Barrie Free Clothing Centre and the Elizabeth FryGrocery Assistance Program. Bring your old electric items (anything with a chip, plug, or battery) and we’ll weigh them and pay you cash by the pound. We’ll also be accepting clothing and food donations. Watch this column or visit www.BarrieGreenParty.ca for more details.

Published as my Root Issues column in the Barrie Examiner as “Keep those resolutions and start volunteering
Erich Jacoby-Hawkins is a director of Living Green and the Robert Schalkenbach Foundation
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Economy

Are you ready for A Day in a Life?

Posted November 14, 2013 by Erich Jacoby-Hawkins

At the Food Not Bombs dinner last night the group’s founder and long-time organizer Keith McHenry spoke of the challenges sharing free food with the hungry. Powerful corporate interests don’t like to be shamed by juxtaposing their wealth with poverty next door; politicians must hide proof of their failed social and economic policies. So the cops are sent in to break it up, arrest volunteers, keep hungry people away from healthy food until it is trampled under-boot.

The pretexts are lack of permits, unhealthy food, creating a disturbance, but the root issue is active denial that poverty is a real and growing problem despite decades of economic “growth”. Well-paid airheads of corporate-owned media opine that the poor aren’t really poor, because many of them own a refrigerator, microwave, TV or cell phone, miracle devices even a king could not obtain 150 years ago! Yet an old appliance won’t keep you fed or pay the rent, cover its own electric bill, treat a chronic illness.

Too often the denial machine is successful, hiding how tough things really are for many in our own communities. Canada is lucky to not have as many examples of a violent government response to poverty, but I still encounter denial of the problems. Some assert that people are homeless by choice, or that most on welfare just don’t want to earn a living.

If you nod your head at either of those ideas, you owe it to yourself to come down to Barrie’s City Hall Rotunda on Monday, November 18th for a reality check. From 11 AM to 6 PM, the Barrie Chapter of the Alliance to End Homelessness is hosting “A Day in a Life” to open your eyes, and heart. Interactive displays will be anchored by a full-scale mock-up of a ten-by-ten “furnished” room from a shelter or rooming house. Learn about links between poverty and poor health, struggles to afford a healthy diet, challenges of finding and maintaining decent housing.

Obstacles are many. Physical or mental health problems or addictions can be a huge burden turning everyday situations into trials. Unexpected events or “detours” can shake someone from a comfortable life into a downward spiral. A simple lack of income is stress enough to trigger a raft of difficult choices, few if any of them leading to a decent and secure lifestyle.

This struggle exists right here in Barrie. If you think the solution is just to pull yourself up and make the best of it, then come to the display and show us how! At the income booth you’ll be issued the money someone on disability, welfare, or minimum wage receives, then make your way around the other stations to obtain food, transportation, clothing, health, and other basic needs and try to still have enough at the end to rent the 10×10 room.

Job statistics in Barrie show improvement, but many are still a long way from economic security. There’s plenty of temporary work, but we don’t have temporary rents or temporary mortgages. Minimum wage doesn’t cover even a minimum healthy life; even less so on part-time hours, or if trying to support a family.

Together we can build solutions, but first we must acknowledge and understand the problems. Are you brave enough to spend “A Day in a Life”?

Published as my Root Issues column in the Barrie Examiner as “Job stats in Barrie look good, but we’re a long way from economic security” or “Temporary work not enough”
Erich Jacoby-Hawkins is a director of Living Green and the Robert Schalkenbach Foundation.
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