We Canadians we are quite familiar with a cold winter. However, despite the cold, winter for many of us is a season filled with joy because of warm evenings at home, hot chocolate and lattes, holiday breaks from school and work so plenty of time with family and loved ones and, of course, snowmen! While we are very fortunate and blessed to enjoy the winter season in comfort with our family and friends, not everyone is. Unfortunately, for those living in poverty, winter can be the most difficult time of year for many reasons. In this post, we will outline four of those reasons.
1. Inadequate shelter and clothing
If your boiler has ever stopped working at home or if you ever went out unprepared for weather, you likely can imagine what it is like being cold and uncomfortable in harsh weather. If you have ever sent your child to school with their regular jacket and clothing, only later to realize that a snowstorm was on the way, you might be able to imagine the distress a parent goes through when they know their child is at risk of being cold or getting sick. Hopefully these scenarios can give you an idea of what living in poverty in the winter can be like when you do not have sufficient clothing and your home is not equipped to deal with the cold.
2. Seasonal illnesses
The seasonal cold and flu that comes with winter is something we are all quite familiar with. While our fall and winter routine may involve taking our flu vaccine, stocking up on cold and flu medicine and taking extra vitamin C to protect us from getting ill, for those in poverty the cold and flu can be much more dangerous. Without adequate food and safe water to maintain a healthy body, those in poverty are more likely to be at risk of getting sick.
Lack of access to health care means that if someone does get sick, they are more likely to not get the support or treatment they need to recover. Unfortunately, for the elderly this can be very dangerous and even fatal. This year, more than any other, do we really understand the difficulties associated with illness.
3. Increased fuel costs
‘Heat or Eat’ is a common choice those living in poverty must make during the winter. Fuel is something which is already difficult to purchase for those in poverty. Once fuel costs (and need) increase in the winter, those in poverty are faced with even greater difficulty. Some must make the difficult choice between using the fuel to cook food to feed their children, or if they should keep their children warm instead. Others would opt to only have one meal a day so that they can try to keep their children warm as well.
For those who live in regions without electricity and in shelters which would not really classify as a home like you and I are used to, this can result in endless nights of cold and little food to eat. Again, this makes those in poverty more vulnerable to illness and if they do get ill, more at risk of facing more severe symptoms.
Transportation is always something difficult for those who cannot afford their own car or access to public transport. Many have to rely on their own two feet for getting anywhere. This means that when winter hits, getting anywhere can be really hard. Children must walk to school without sufficient clothing. Elderly who are still working to sustain themselves must walk in the cold to work. Even for those who rely on social services it can be really hard, because they still have to get there to get help! Some charities are able to provide transport services for their beneficiaries, but with limited budgets, this is not always the case. This means that winter not only means living in cold and difficulty, but also could mean living in isolation without income or support.
As you can see, the challenges facing those in poverty during the winter are tremendous. That is why we have launched our Winter Appeal. This appeal will work to supply food and/or heating to those in need this winter. You can help make a difference by donating today and supporting a family in need.