There is no dignity in poverty, in not being able to feed your kids, in not providing them with the essentials, in worrying how to take care of your family, in struggling to survive, in being blamed for being poor, particularly amidst a culture obsessed with gadgets, wealth and entitlement.
Too many Canadians live in poverty – over three million, about one in eleven. And the Salvation Army wants to do something about it. They have just launched the Dignity Project to inspire, educate and activate community support against the indignities of poverty (March 2011). Through on line events, on the street outreach, traditional advertising, social networking and other communications tactics, they intend to debunk myths about poverty and convince Canadians that poverty is a scourge on society.
Here is the Manifesto they want you to sign:
I believe that:
- Everyone should have access to life's basic necessities
- Poverty is a scourge on society that puts dignity out of reach
- People's lives change when they are treated with dignity
- Everyone has a right to a sense of dignity
- The fight against poverty deserves my personal attention
The Dignity Project was released simultaneous with an Angus Reid poll revealing that myths about poverty persist in Canada today. Here are some of the findings:
On the positive side Canadians consider poverty to be the third most pressing issue, after the economy and healthcare, facing the country today. 89% agree people in poverty deserve a helping hand. 81% understand helping parents sets up their children for success and 63% accept that poverty is a hard trap to escape.
However nearly 50% feel a family of four could get by on $30,000 a year or less. (By contrast the average family of four, with two working parents, brings home $84,000 annually.) About a quarter believe that people are poor because they are lazy and have lower moral standard than the average problem. And 18% say poverty is a problem we can't really do much about.
These negative attitudes are reminiscent of what Fred McKinnon former DM of Social Welfare in Nova Scotia faced in the 1940's.
I like the Salvation Army for this campaign because they are paying attention to one of the critical but slowest moving variables necessary for making substantive change – underlying cultural attitudes and beliefs.
The Salvation Army is a 19th century institution that continues to reinvent itself for the 21st century. They have street cred – offering meals, shelter, food and clothing every day in all parts of Canada. I also like their use of social media. I like their message that each of us can do something: signing their manifesto; subscribing to the Dignity Blog; donating to their campaign. And for anti-poverty activists, linking our collective efforts.
Kudos to Angus Reid, the staff and board of Vision Critical, particularly their Chief Research Officer, Andrew Grenville, who sits on the national advisory board of the Salvation Army. Vision Critical are backing the Dignity Project campaign.
This is the seventh in a series on poverty. Click Poverty to access the others.