I was flipping through the Toronto Life January 2012 edition, in their “Where to get good stuff cheap” section when I came across this sentence: “On sale for $495, it’s as cheap as it is versatile”. And they are writing about a DRESS! A cotton, plaid, shirt-dress – nothing fancy. The more I look through the section, the more I see why Torontonians are constantly lured into spending money. Nothing in the “good stuff cheap” section is all that cheap. I guess they’re trying to go for how to get expensive items at a discount. But I’m not sure “cheap” is the right word for a $495 cotton dress!
Prices stand out to me since living on $4 a day. I never really noticed how expensive things are. It’s hard to buy milk and cereal for under $4 (or almond milk, as I’m still on the no dairy thing from vegan month). And I’m definitely not buying any new clothes or anything that isn’t completely mandatory. It’s interesting how not having those “rewards” (like buying a new sweater, or treating yourself to a chocolate bar) makes you change your reward system and value different things.
We (as in you, the readers, and I) were talking about really understanding what it’s like to live in poverty in Canada, and how I need to hit the streets to see what life at the poverty line is really like. I only need to walk outside my door to see this. I live in Parkdale – a mix of low-income housing, lots of new immigrants, artists, and gentrified areas. It is a diverse section of Toronto with lots of character. There are “hipster” bars beside run-down cafes and food banks. Walking up Jameson Avenue, lined with tall, low-rent apartment buildings, you run into all sorts of different people. There are hard-working newly immigrated families. Students goof around, old men mumble to themselves, and drug addicts get high or come down. Teenage girls giggle and their mothers or fathers push carts of groceries home from the discount store. There are people of all colours. This is a working class neighbourhood, with some poorer than others.
In the Parkdale 2011 Report Card on Health, Housing and Food Security (which Parkdale failed most categories), The Parkdale Community Health Centre explains: “57% of our clients report income under $20,000 and more than 30% of our clients live with mental health issues.” I love Parkdale, but I watch some of the people here struggle – sometimes dealing with mental illness, sometimes dealing with money at the bank, sometimes just dealing with life at the coffee shop. I wonder what they are thinking as they stare out of the window over their coffee for hours.
Here are some residents of Parkdale who explain what poverty is to them (from The Toronto Star):