St. Vincent de Paul Society takes stronger advocacy role

by | Aug 3, 2014 | Justice and Peace, Society of St. Vincent de Paul, Systemic change, Vincentian Family

 

SSVDP Board Canada

SSVDP Board Canada

Ramon Gonzalez of the Western Catholic Reporter writes… The Society of St. Vincent de Paul will become a stronger advocate for the poor as well as continuing its longstanding charitable work of providing food, furniture and clothing to those in need.

“We are recognizing that the idea of giving to those living in poverty is a wonderful short-term solution, but it does not change the situation of those living in poverty,” says Peter Ouellette, president of the Western Region of the society.

Society of St. Vincent de Paul’s members from across Canada spent several days in Edmonton strategizing how to best serve those in need. More than 260 national delegates, including 145 from Edmonton, attended the society’s 43rd annual general assembly at Grant MacEwan University June 11-15. Throughout the five-day assembly delegates attended educational workshops and participated in a plenary on systemic change.

Further thoughts from the article…

In his keynote speech to the assembly, Bob McKeon, director of the office of social justice in the Edmonton Archdiocese, said public advocacy is essential. Politicians must be convinced that “there is broad public support for using government funds to address the structural causes of homelessness and poverty,” he said.

McKeon pointed to a series of government and community initiatives across Canada to reduce poverty and homelessness, including Edmonton’s and Alberta’s 10-year plans to eliminate homelessness.
“Rather than simply seeking to alleviate some of the immediate consequences and effects of poverty, these initiatives seek to address the structural causes of poverty and homelessness on a systematic, long-term basis,” he said.

“So it’s not a matter of continually providing for those people; it’s a matter of helping them to get out of their particular situation and to recognize that every situation is different.”

Some of the Vincent de Paul Society’s clients may include individuals that have difficulty managing their money and home. As a result they go to the cash store for loans and get into a debt spiral that’s difficult to get out of.

“We have initiatives going so they do not have to go into that debt spiral and we will help them to identify in a systemic way how they can change things,” Ouellette explained.
The society’s objective is not to push the government but help people access government resources, he said. “So often there is a step that is missing between those living in poverty and access to government assistance.”

Each time a family calls for help, two members of SSVP visit their home and evaluate the family’s needs. “We are so much more involved in the grassroots with those people. If government offers a solution then we will bring government in but we are ahead of the government in actually seeing and feeling the poverty that exists in that home.”

Read the full story with photos.

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