Learn how you can respond to local issues of poverty, homelessness, and hunger. Join the Mustard Seed conversation by engaging with the contents of this page.
Before you start, we want to thank and credit the Greater Victoria Coalition to End Homelessness, Hope International, Food Banks of Canada, and the World Bank for supplying and inspiring a lot of the information you’ll find here.
This page is here for the curious, the compassionate, and those who generally desire to learn why we – the Mustard Seed – exist in the first place. This page is here to help you wrestle with tough questions, to encourage you to talk with your community about injustice, and to help you figure out how to respond.
Think of this page as an informative springboard. We hope it inspires action.
Anytime you want to come on down to Queens Ave to partner with us as we restore hope to our neighbours in need, know that you’re more than welcome.
Did you know? Every day almost 16,000 children die from hunger related causes. That’s one child every five seconds.
Think this is just an international issue? While we might not have 12 children dying of hunger each minute in Victoria, 31.8% of BC Food Bank users are children and youth under the age of 18.
STRUGGLING TO MAKE ENDS MEET IN VICTORIA
HUNGRY IN VICTORIA
A large percentage of our community members are employed families struggling to make ends meet. With the ever-increasing cost of living in Victoria, many families in Greater Victoria who work minimum-wage paying jobs face incredible financial challenge. Many families need our help – or the help of their neighbourhood Food bank distributors – with groceries each month.
In March 2010, 21,180 individuals accessed Food Banks or grocery programs affiliated with Food Banks Canada in the Greater Victoria region.
HOMELESS IN VICTORIA
At the Mustard Seed, many of our friends and community members face the hardships of homelessness or poverty every day. Many of our community members have experienced “sleeping rough” – they’ve woken up on benches, bus stops, or cold, damp cement.
According to a study conducted by Greater Victoria Coalition to end Homelessness, 1,143 individuals sought shelter on the night of February 2, 2011. 1,052 of these individuals were sheltered in 63 facilities and 91 were turned away. Among these sheltered folks were 79 families with a total of 112 children.
But let’s back up a bit. Since the Mustard Seed is a Christian organization, we believe that this wasn’t God’s plan for the world. So how did it get like this? We don’t have all the answers, and in fact, we have a lot of questions. But we invite you to explore these questions with us!
WHAT IS POVERTY, ANYWAY?
If we live in a world made by an active, loving God, why is there poverty in the first place?
We were created to be in right relationship – with our God, ourselves, each other, the land, our community, and our surroundings – but many of these relationships aren’t right.
Each of us experiences what it’s like to fall short of the wholeness God designed for us.
According to Brent Meyers and Hope International, “Poverty is the result of relationships that do not work, that are not just, that are not for life, that are not harmonious or enjoyable. Poverty is the absence of shalom in all its meanings.”
Therefore fighting poverty is about RESTORATION. It’s about restoring brokenness by helping men, women, and children work towards physical, relational, and spiritual WHOLENESS – the wholeness that we were created to experience in the first place.
As a community partner, you stand with us as we fight poverty and restore hope and wholeness in Greater Victoria. You also stand with our city’s material poor – our neighbours in need – as you learn more about God’s heart for the marginalized.
Figures and statistics about material poverty are always changing, so keep in mind that these stats are approximate – but as accurate as we can find. Though in flux, the fact that these stats are always available illustrates a point: poverty is everywhere. Taking a look at these numbers can help paint a picture of the burden that our neighbours in need – both locally and globally – experience on a daily basis. It can remind us of the injustice at work behind economic disparity.
According to the World Bank Development Indicators in 2008:
50% of the world lives on less than $2.50/day.
80% lives on less than $10.00/day.
There is no shortage of stats that paint an unsettling picture of the world’s inequalities – and the burden suffered by those living in poverty. In fact, you’re going to be looking at a lot of stats as you keep scrolling. Take a minute to pause and let these numbers sink in. Remember that behind every statistic is a real, valuable, human life. Ask yourself: do these numbers represent God’s loving justice? Do they represent right relationships at work?
WHAT ARE THE ROOT CAUSES OF POVERTY?
This is a tough question – and one that we might never come to an agreed-upon consensus over. But what does the Bible say some of the root causes are? Where do you see these root causes at work in Victoria, in BC, or in Canada?
God identifies sources such as oppression, hedonism, usury, injustice, and addiction. But even those sources have their own roots! The holistic areas of brokenness we experience – physical, social, mental, and spiritual – work together to lead to physical poverty. For example, I might have an addiction because of my own relational and spiritual poverty. I may have experienced pain and trauma in my youth, which led to my current alcohol addiction, and now I’m trapped in a painful cycle of poverty and addiction.
Poverbs 22:7 Identifies general debt and high-interest rates (such as student loans) as sources of poverty.
Nehemiah 5:1-10 Identifies hunger, property expenses, slavery, and high interest rates as things that perpetuate the cycle of poverty.
Proverbs 13:23 Indentifies greed and a lack of wise distribution as sources for hunger and poverty.
Isaiah 10:1-2 Identifies how poverty is rooted in systemic and social issues that deprive rights to the poor.
Proverbs 21:17 Identifies addiction – which has its own complex roots – as a source of poverty.
GOD’S HEART FOR THE POOR
Throughout scripture, God is shown as active in bringing about restoration and renewal for the poor and oppressed.
Isaiah 40:3-5 Maybe Isaiah isn’t talking about literal topography. Maybe the valleys are a metaphor for unjust suffering and poverty. Maybe the hills are a metaphor for those who exploit and oppress the poor. God’s kingdom is one of level ground. It’s an upside-down kingdom where the values of the world are spun on their head.
Psalm 113:4-9 God raises the poor up. He restores equality to all his children. Man, talk about level ground!
Psalm 146:6-8 God advocates for the rights of the oppressed. He feeds the hungry.
Isaiah 58 God has chosen his people to be heralds of restoration. He asks us to partner with Him to loose the chains of injustice, set the oppressed free, break yokes of slavery and exploitation, to share food with the hungry, to give shelter to those who wander in need, to clothe the naked. Talk about restoration.
Luke 4:16-21 Imagine the promise these words would have held for those in Jesus’ day suffering from poverty and oppression!
Throughout scripture, God is shown as having extreme compassion for the widows, orphans, poor, oppressed, and homeless. The raw truth is that poverty has NO PLACE in God’s kingdom. But we can partner with Him by restoring hope and wholeness to folks living in poverty.
Our Responseis to be PARTNERS in God’s RESTORATION.
Many of us live in a way that limits our cross-class interaction. The people we spend most of our time with are people who belong to a similar social and economic class. This makes it all too easy to ignore or simply overlook the struggles of our neighbours in need. Your participation on this page shows an openness to hearing the cry of the poor! But God asks us to take steps beyond simply listening – he asks us to respond.
At the Mustard Seed, we want to respond by feeding the hungry, by empowering the oppressed, by fostering inclusive, socioeconomically diverse community, and by developing our community members’ human potential.
What does God require of us? Is it not to “share food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter— to clothe the naked, and not to turn away from your [neighbours in need]?” Isaiah 58:7
OPEN YOUR EYES TO LOCAL POVERTY
Did you know that, according to a study conducted by Food Banks Canada, 851,000 people rely on a Food Bank every month? And that in March 2011, 90,193 accessed a Food Bank in BC alone?
FOOD SECURITY IN VICTORIA
What is Food Security?
“Food security exists at a household level when people have stable and sustained access, by socially acceptable means, to adequate amounts of safe and nutritious food for active healthy lives.” – Valerie Tarasuk
The Mustard Seed Food Bank exists to fight food insecurity. It is undeniable that people are hungry in Victoria. According to the GVCEH, “Food security is something many people take for granted – but not all citizens in Canada live in households where everyone has access to safe and nutritious food for active, healthy lives. Unfortunately, food banks in Greater Victoria are seeing steady increases in use yearly. In March 2010, 15.5% of BC Food Banks ran out of food.”
People in Greater Victoria experience food insecurity on a daily basis.
Percent and Number of Households Experiencing Food Insecurity:
MONTHLY COSTS: SHELTER & FOOD IN VICTORIA
Everyone needs food and shelter. It’s a basic human right. Unfortunately, food and shelter are two of the most costly basic necessities. Covering these costs is a huge challenge for people with low incomes.
The graph below, via Greater Victoria Coalition to End Homelessness Report on Housing, shows us what’s leftover each month for housed individuals with low incomes. Let’s walk through this together.
Average Monthly Income and Costs:
Ok, so, based on average market rent and food costs, people working minimum-wage paying jobs have around $345.45 left at the end of each month. This is expected to cover all their costs, including transportation to and from work, child related expenses, toiletries, health-related items, and more. A bus pass alone is $82.50 – there goes a quarter of your bank account. And I don’t know about you, but I can easily drop $50/month on hygiene and cleaning supplies. Necessary items such as deodorant, laundry detergent, dish soap, toothpaste, shampoo, conditioner, and sunscreen can really add up!
Now, if you’re on social assistance, you’ve got even less – if any – left over after rent, let alone food. After food and shelter, your “disposable” income is negligible at best, if it even exists! No wonder so many of our neighbours in need access crucial meal programs and necessary food banks like ours.
WHAT CAN I DO TO RESPOND TO LOCAL POVERTY IN VICTORIA?
Thanks for exploring issues of poverty and hunger with us.
Today we’ve explored issues of spiritual, relational, intellectual, and physical poverty. We’ve learned a bit about the roots of poverty. We’ve studied God’s heart for the poor. We’ve opened our eyes to poverty, hunger, and homelessness on global and local levels. We’ve realized that we can partner with God as He restores hope and wholeness to people living in poverty.
How can we actively respond to poverty in Greater Victoria? We don’t have all the answers. And like I said, we still have a lot of questions. But we’re working hard to love, feed, and care for our neighbours in need – and we’d love for you to be a part of it.
There are many ways for you to partner with us as we restore faith and fight hunger in Greater Victoria:
Our volunteers are behind the scenes, on the front lines, in the kitchen, or at the table eating with our community members. You can volunteer with our Drop-In centre, our Food Bank and more.
We would love you to come on a tour and learn more. For one to 5 people, no reservation needed for individuals or groups under six. To learn more about upcoming tour dates, or to contact us about tours, click here.
Our donors are our lifeline. We couldn’t feed, clothe, and care for Victoria’s hurting without them. We like to think of our donors as our partners. Make a real difference. Donate today.