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More than 49K living in poverty in Simcoe Muskoka, task force says

The County of Simcoe administration centre on Highway 26. Nick Westoll / File / Global News

The Simcoe County Poverty Reduction Task Force is raising awareness about the struggle for many in the community.

The task force held the Rethink Poverty event at the Orillia Public Library Friday afternoon to spread awareness about the issues in the community.

Organizers say there are currently more than 49,600 people living in poverty.

The task force’s co-chair said the event aimed to help people understand the situation while giving them activities to understand what poverty feels like and talk about solutions.

“We want people to understand the depths of poverty. We want them to talk about it, change the story and reduce the stigma and biases. We’re really hoping to inspire people to commit to taking some action to reduce poverty after the event,” said Christine Bushey, co-chair of the task force.

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The event was held in partnership with the United Way Centraide Simcoe Muskoka, the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit, the Simcoe Muskoka Workforce Development Board and the Simcoe Muskoka Literacy Network.

“We know when it comes to household food insecurity as well, we know that 13 per cent of Simcoe-Muskoka residents reported having some degree of food insecurity in the last 12 months. So that’s 70,000 people who struggle to put food on the table,” said Bushey.

She said the United Way of Simcoe Muskoka is seeing a considerable increase in people trying to access the urgent needs fund to help with basic income support.

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During the Friday event, participants were given several financial scenarios with limited resources and asked to create a budget.

“Poverty simulation helps people to really put themselves in the shoes of individuals who are living in poverty,” Bushey said.

The event focused on solutions like a living wage with employers who offer one to workers talking about the benefits of paying above the minimum.

Bushey said they are hoping to hold similar educational events in the future.

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“The rising cost of basically everything has put people in that more vulnerable situation, and really, the time is now to take action, to work together to reduce poverty.”

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