Developers in Kitchener push services out of community, community pushes back

Serving the people... pizza. Downtown Kitchener, June 29, 2014.

10351077_10152522422495680_9206474951989054156_n by BASICS Kitchener-Waterloo

After the recent closure of “The Hot Dog House” — a community outreach initiative that handed out hot dogs and coffee to downtown Kitchener’s poor community — the community came together to rectify the situation. On the afternoon of June 29, 2014, citizens of downtown Kitchener’s poor community handed out pizza in front of the model office for the still-to-be-built City Centre Condominiums.

The local community’s decision to hand out food at the condo model office was a symbolic one. One the organizers of the event explained, “City council and the condo developers that are displacing the poor need to know that we are here and we aren’t going away. Resources for the poor are steadily disappearing, making a difficult situation even worse for the downtown core’s poor. Since the state will not assist us, we will take matters into our own hands and ensure that Downtown Kitchener’s poor will not have to go hungry.” With the closure of The Hot Dog House there are no other food options for the poor on Sundays.

For the poor residents of downtown Kitchener, finding effective social resources has become increasingly difficult in recent years. Cuts to social programs from both the federal and provincial level have forced organizations to attempt to do more with less. At the same time, the rate of poverty has been steadily increasing. Both these factors make it difficult, if not impossible, for community organizations to assist the growing number of displaced poor in downtown Kitchener. And, as community organizations that assist with feeding people disappear, the pockets of the poor and working poor become even more strained as they struggle to fit groceries into an already strained budget.

Currently, a single person living on Ontario Works makes around $600 each month. This is far from enough to cover living expenses such as rent, food, utilities, and transportation. Someone working for minimum wage on a part time basis makes about $1,230 per month. Although slightly better, this situation also leaves a person with very little room for additional expenses.

As the government continues to attack the poor with cuts to social programs, community organizers will continue working tirelessly to fill the void. Going forward, organizers will continue handing out pizza in front of City Centre’s model office every Sunday to make sure that no one will have to go hungry, or forced to choose between rent and food.