This past spring, the Hamilton Spectator released Code Red, a study on the health outcomes of the City of Hamilton by census tract. The shocking news is that the life expectancy between the highest and lowest census tract averages came out at 21 years. That’s just plain disturbing.
Vats of ink, gazillions of bits, and a roar of conversations have all been dedicated to probing urban poverty. Rather than succumb to the paralysis of despair, I have devised some questions to guide my reading, writing, and activities in pursuit of answering what my responsibility is when the problem isn’t ‘over there’ but is right here, in neighbourhoods that I drive through regularly.
Here are some of my growing and evolving roster:
What public investment of money yields the greatest long-term societal benefit?
What are the key institutions that can change the dynamics of systemic urban poverty in our cities?
What can average citizens do to raise the floor of poverty in Hamilton or the equivalent in their city?
What has been done in the past that doesn’t work?
What are the hopeful ideas and practices that we need to build on?
We drove through many cities on our summer road trip, passing observers of the plenty and scarcity that North American cities represent. These and other questions were along for the ride. What do you think we should do?