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Group aims to help more Okanagan families struggling with poverty

1 in five Central Okanagan children said to be living in poverty

Many families in the Central Okanagan are homeless and working hard to hide it, according to a child advocate worker.

“There’s a lot of shame and a lot of stigma around being homeless,” said Myrna Kalmakoff, an early years community developer with the Central Okanagan Early Years Partnership. “There’s a lot of fear about what would happen if authorities find out.”

Kalmakoff is working with the Central Okanagan Poverty Reduction Strategy Committee, which works to ensure struggling families don’t end up without a roof over their heads.

Recently estimates by local social agencies found that 18 per cent of children in the Kelowna area are living in poverty.

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Kids are showing up at school without proper nutrition, adequate supplies, adequate clothing or have had inadequate sleep, according to Kalmakoff.

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There are several factors that make it difficult for families to make ends meet, she said.

“We have a high cost of living here. We have a high cost of housing. We have lower than average wages.”

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The living wage in the Central Okanagan is said to be $21 per hour, according to Kalmakoff, but she added, “that’s just to stay out of poverty. That doesn’t include saving for educations, saving for retirement, doesn’t include a mortgage.”

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A four-person family, she said, must have two parents working full time at jobs that pay the local living wage, which has been calculated at $21 per hour, to provide for the basic necessities.

An upcoming workshop for community organizations, agencies and others interested in addressing poverty in the region is schedule for Sept. 27, from 6-9 p.m. at the Hollywood Road Education Centre on Hollywood Road in Kelowna.

More information on the event can be found at the Central Okanagan Early Years Partnership Website.