So I sit here and the title of this blog post would be “Show Me The Money, Honey”.

But I am conflicted as I write this because I want to write from a place that represents living in poverty and trying to raise a child. But I also have this other compelling side to tell you about how ‘poor’ this social services piece is in this country. How the social services in the community that support up to 1 in 3 people are doing that with no money. So perhaps I break this into 2 posts.

How do you operate a program for the marginalized. The poor. The ‘have nots’. Those facing adversity. Living in poverty and raising a child or two in this era of the rich, the barely making it middle class, those who are the ‘working poor’ and well those who really have nothing? And when I say nothing I am only talking about finances here. Many of my young moms have more ‘assets’ than some well-to-do 40 year olds. But money-wise. I am constantly looking at “the budget”. Trying to make something happen from nothing. Borrowing from one line in my budget to cover essential needs in the other. How hard is it for me to wonder if my funding would come through so I could continue working? So my family would be fed.

As a young parent in Victoria these days, there are more days in the month where creative financing is the name of the game. Making that Income Assistance go the extra mile. To have safe and affordable housing. That can mean sitting on a BC Housing list for up to 5 years before you are able to pay rent based on your income, not market value. If you have $600 in your budget for housing, you’d be hard pressed in Victoria to find a bachelor suite let alone a 1 or a 2 bedroom suite for a mom and babe. To have affordable rent, food, heat, hot water, transportation. Yes, a bus pass is a luxury! To have toiletries, baby care needs, childcare parent fees and yes…., a cell phone. Something that should actually be further up the list but isn’t.  It’s their form of entertainment. Their lifeline. Their communication device.  So taking a meager amount of money and trying to make it stretch is a skill that I still need more practice with but when you have even less, well you have less.

The Moms I work with are actually quite skilled in this area. It’s amazing how you learn to be creative with your budget. Get the necessities and do more with less. I have often thought that  a single mother with one or two kids on income assistance would be a great accounts manager because if you don’t have the money then you don’t have it. This is something that credit cards haven’t taught us well. But really how do they do it? There are success stories. The ones that get a spot at daycare and get housing so then they can go to school or get a job. But that’s a better story. How about the ones living everyday hoping that they can get some fresh groceries this week or need more diapers or another can of formula for baby? The ones that couch surf. The ones that live with a friend or two with 2 kids each in a 2 bedroom so they have shelter.

They network. They use resources. They rely on others to help them and it can be discouraging. I see it on their faces when they have to tell their story again and again to different resources hoping that they might find the right person on the receiving end that can fill that one particular need. But then it starts again with the next need. Parenting is hard work. Being a teenager is stressful. Parenting when you are a teen is hard and doing it alone is downright exhausting and stressful. With the current economic climate looking bleak and the forecast looking worse how do we do it. How do we help them raise their children with all of their needs met. It takes a village to raise a child. And since we don’t live in villages anymore, it takes a community.

Nicole Andrews
The Cridge Young Parent Outreach Program