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CARING FOR OUR CHILDREN

- Lobbying For More Affordable Housing Units Just One Way That Residents Can Create a More ‘Family-Friendly’ Community -

Improving access to affordable housing is just one way that a community can create an environment where its youngest citizens grow and thrive, says the local Health Unit.

Some families who rely on social assistance or work minimum-wage jobs may find it difficult to pay market rent, especially if they are on a waiting list for affordable housing, says Emmy Anastasiou, a Family Health Nurse with the Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit.

“If most of the money goes for rent, a family may find it hard to pay for other costs, such as healthy food, heat or hydro,” she says. “That can really affect a child’s well-being.”

Some low-income families may have no other option but to find housing that is sub-standard, inadequate and poorly maintained, Anastasiou adds. This may lead to frequent moves, and also puts the family at a higher risk of becoming homeless. “You suddenly realize how much a safe, adequate and stable home environment can influence a child’s healthy growth and development,” she notes.

Anastasiou’s comments come in the wake of new report from the Ontario Non-Profit Housing Association. The Association found that, at the end of last year, almost 158,500 Ontario households were on a waiting list for affordable housing.

“A lack of affordable housing is a symptom of a larger illness that affects young children and their ability to grow up healthy,” Anastasiou says. “The sickness is not physical, but an environmental one in which a child’s surroundings, or community, can affect a child’s overall well-being.”

The Health Unit wants to raise awareness of how social factors such as affordable housing, employment, education, childcare, transportation and access to medical services play significant roles in the health of families. According to the Health Unit, local communities that support families and work to tackle poverty issues help to ensure the children of today grow up healthy and become the well-adjusted, productive adults of tomorrow. Says Anastasiou: “It truly does take a village to raise a child!”

Local residents can help to create a family friendly community by urging their municipal councils to create more affordable housing units. People can also lobby federal and provincial politicians to increase income support programs and take action to address child poverty. Donating their time or money to support food banks, community gardens, community kitchens, school nutrition programs and food drives is another way that individuals can make a difference, she adds.

For more information on addressing poverty issues and creating family-friendly communities, call the Health Unit toll-free at 1-866-888-4577 or visit www.rethinkpoverty.ca .

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For media inquiries, contact:

Emmy Anastasiou, Family Health Nurse with the Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit, (705) 324-3569.

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