Anti-poverty rally offers a ray of hope

Brook Metcalfe shares her story of overcoming sexual abuse, drug addiction and poverty at the annual Stand Up Against Poverty Rally at City Hall on Friday, October 14.

Troy Shantz

Brooke Metcalfe was once haunted by drug addiction that stemmed from sexual abuse.

Today she is a PSW, raising her daughter with her fiancé and recently accepted a position with the County of Lambton.

Choking back tears, Metcalfe shared her story of transformation during the Stand Up Against Poverty Rally on the steps of City Hall on Oct. 14.

Though poverty takes on many forms it can be overcome with the help of community programs and the support of individuals, she said.

“People do all that they can to get by and if somebody’s struggling, you should just help them.”

The event was hosted by the local Poverty Reduction Network and coincided with the United Nation’s International Day for the Eradication of Poverty.

It offered a venue to share personal stories and to highlight four new transportation and housing programs funded by Lambton County.

They will address existing needs of the poor, said Myles Vanni, executive director of Inn of the Good Shepherd.

He said the city’s largest food bank is being used by 3,800 people, and nearly 70% of them are either working or actively seeking employment.

“It’s really important for the community to realize that those people are working hard. Sometimes, without help from the community, they just can’t get out of poverty,” said Karen Mathewson, a rally organizer and chair of the Poverty Reduction Network.

“Sometimes people are just a paycheque away from being there, so we all deserve that respect.”

Megan O’Neil-Renaud is an assistant supervisor with Lambton Circles program, which uses relationship-based strategies to help lift people out of poverty.

She said addressing the stigma is crucial.

“We call it a mental model of poverty. It’s that whole idea that they are lazy,” she said.

O’Neil-Renaud worked with Metcalfe at Circles.

“Is Brooke lazy? No! She’s been through hell and she’s worked twice as hard to get to where she is.”

Mathewson said it’s easy to lose sight of what’s happening when people are struggling.

“It’s incumbent on our community to come together, to be that family, to be that network, to be that support,” she said.