Thursday, October 18, 2012

Youth, poverty, and trying to make a difference

Go figure; I commit to writing more, and my health nose-dives again. For the record: insomnia sucks, 5am is a lousy bed time, and taking an MAOI makes it much more difficult to treat. I managed to sleep last night, though, and it was definitely the best sleep I've had in two weeks.

Almost three months after losing my job, I still haven't been able to find new employment. Granted, my health has gotten in the way of my search somewhat, but the bottom line is that my only income right now is EI, and it's very difficult to make ends meet with so little to work with. This is especially true in my particular corner of rural Nova Scotia; rent is inflated, and there's very little available in the way of assistance. Low-income housing is only available for seniors or families, and down-on-their-luck unemployed youth just don't have any resources available. No wonder so many of my former co-workers left town.

It just so happens to be municipal election season, so after I gave up on my search for some sort of housing assistance, I decided to look into candidates. Sadly, not many of them have websites, and those who set up Facebook pages just post things about where they've been canvassing around town, groups they met with, and so on, as opposed to campaign promises, their views on various issues, and so on. I eventually found some information on the website of the local weekly newspaper. Turns out I missed the mayoral debate, though according to the article the "big" issue was the local exhibition grounds and what it meant for town verses county relations. I suppose that's important, but for someone who might very soon have to leave town due to being unable to afford the rent, it's not a big priority.

I emailed both candidates and I told them my story: I'm twenty-six, not able-bodied, recently laid off, and I can't afford rent. I wrote about how many of my former co-workers left town when we lost our jobs, how young people-- many of whom are unemployed or under-employed-- simply can't afford to stay here, and how that's going to further damage an already depressed local economy. I asked them what they plan to do about ensuring that there's affordable housing for those who need it.

Both candidates replied back; one asked to meet me.

It turns out another problem youth have is that we're not very good at getting our voices heard.

Fortunately, the candidate I met with today is aware of the difficulties young people face in town, and housing difficulties in particular. The thing is, I was the first person to come forward and talk about the problem on a more personal level. I suppose I'm not entirely surprised that this is the case; young people tend to be more politically apathetic, even about the issues that directly affect us. The issues I addressed haven't really been discussed in previous council meetings, in part because the councillors don't think of these things, and in part because we youth aren't telling them. I was asked to get involved, and to share my experience and concerns with the newly-elected council.

So, tomorrow I'll be learning more about the local Poverty Reduction Council and the affordable housing initiative they're working on, as well as their other projects. This stuff is important, and while youth concerns are acknowledged, we need a voice, too-- so once I'm done talking, I'll be encouraging others to speak up, too.

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