Until They Are Fed and Housed…

January 8th, 2010-->

“Until they are fed, housed and trained our athletes can’t skate, ski or slide.  365 days a year our worldwide Corporate Partners make the dreams of the Olympic athlete a reality.  For that, we–and everyone who lives the Olympic Games–owe them our deepest gratitude.” - Jacques Rogge, President of the International Olympic Committee

We understand that athletes need to be healthy and supported to meet their goals at the Olympic games.  But what about low-income British Columbians?  Don’t they also have a right to healthy food and secure housing? After all, they too need to be healthy in order to work, look after their children and family, and participate in their community. 

A December 2009 report from the Dietitians of Canada evaluates the cost of eating in this province.   It shows that one month’s worth of healthy food for a single person would cost $323.  A family of four would spend $872 a month.  If this family were on welfare, they would be spending $127 more than their cheque allows just on food and shelter.  A single person on disability would be $22 short every month.

The Dietitians group states:
“While shelter and food costs have risen significantly over the past decade, income assistance rates have remained virtually unchanged and minimum wage, once the highest in the country, has remained at $8.00/hour.  For those receiving income assistance or earning minimum wage there simply is not enough money to pay for housing and food, let alone other necessities.  Food bank line-ups are at a record high and child poverty rates are worse than any other province.  This situation must not be tolerated.” 

If the Olympics can inspire the support of corporate partners to make the dreams of athletes come true, surely we can insist that government and corporations take action to support our most vulnerable citizens with wage increases, low-income housing developments, and other measures to promote economic equality.

The Fuzzy Mascot of Low-Income Housing

January 8th, 2010-->

Chewy the Rat is the next in our series of Poverty Olympics mascots to be featured here. Chewy is a well-known, though unpopular, resident of Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.

 Rats thrive when rental accommodation is not kept up properly.  In Vancouver, there is a Standards of Maintenance bylaw that says landlords must keep their premises vermin free, but the city often fails to enforce this aspect of the bylaw.

While Chewy brings an element of comedy to the Poverty Olympics, the reality is that living with pests such as rats is just one more challenge faced by poor residents living in low-income housing, and the rat problem can be made worse by development in the neighbourhood.  This past summer, Vancouver Coastal Health recommended that developers be ordered to exterminate rats before a building is torn down, because rats will flee from demolition sites and more into other buildings in the area.  This issue is particularly relevant in a high-density area like the Downtown Eastside.

 Come to the 3rd annual Poverty Olympics on February 7 and see if you’re brave enough to pose for a photo with Chewy!


Introducing Creepy the Cockroach

November 23rd, 2009-->

Even if you don’t know their names, those official Olympic mascots are everywhere; Miga, Quatchi and Sumi are winking and waving at you from every store window.

Well, it’s high time that our Poverty Olympics mascots got a little more attention. After all, they’ve been working hard at our games for two years in a row, and they’re still way more common in the Downtown Eastside than the fuzzy, cuddly official variety of mascots.

So, let me introduce you to one of our Poverty Olympics mascots…here’s Creepy the Cockroach:


Cockroaches are a common pest insect. All over BC, many people who live in low-rent accommodation have to put up with these disgusting creatures climbing over their food, up their walls, into their pipes, and in their beds. Most buildings in the Downtown Eastside have them. Cockroaches eat the food of humans and their pets, and can cause allergic reactions and asthma attacks.

However, not all cockroaches are scary; at previous Poverty Olympics we enjoyed munching on a beautiful cockroach cake.


While cockroaches ARE pretty creepy, it’s not all bad – they’re one of the hardiest insects in the world and can live for a month without food. Some species can survive without air for 45 minutes! Creepy the Cockroach reminds us of our ability to be resilient.

Look for Creepy at the 2010 Poverty Olympics on February 7!

Poverty Olympics Torch Relay: Shining a spotlight on BC

November 16th, 2009-->

photo credit: goh iromoto

The Poverty Olympics Torch Relay needs you! We are looking for community groups or individuals around the province to commit to being a part of the first ever Poverty Olympics Torch Relay to be held in January and February 2010 in the lead-up to the official Vancouver Winter Olympics. It will end at the Poverty Olympics, the highly successful community event that has been staged in Vancouver for the last 2 years. We will provide most of the materials you will need including leaflets, torch instructions, and many other resources.

So often the face of poverty is the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver but we know people are struggling all over the province. The Torch Relay will highlight these stories, the stories of your local community, in calling on the government to make some very necessary changes. Contact Trish at info@povertyolympics.ca to sign on as a Torchbearer for the Poverty Olympics Torch Relay.

photo: goh iromoto

Third Annual Poverty Olympics - February 7, 2010

November 4th, 2009-->

Come out for free family fun with a conscience on February 7, 2010 at the Japanese Language School (487 Alexander St., Vancouver) from 1 - 3 p.m.

Watch the Games (Welfare Hurdles, Skating around Poverty, and more), cheer the Mascots (Itchy the Bedbug, Creepy the Cockroach and Chewy the Rat), boo the Bad Guys (Mr. Bid and Mr. Con Dough), sing along with the Poverty Anthem, eat cake and be merry!

Hope to see you all there!

Welcome to the Poverty Olympics blog

November 2nd, 2009-->

The Vancouver Winter Olympics 2010 is fast approaching and so preparation for the Poverty Olympics is in full swing - now coming up to its third year, this community event will be even bigger and better than previous years!

And now for the first time, you have the opportunity to follow the build-up on this new blog where we’ll show you lots of behind the scenes action including features on the individual Poverty Olympic athletes - their training schedules, what they’re eating, their uniforms, and a sneak peek at their family life (find out how they juggle competitive sport and a personal life).

We’ll also post updates on the Poverty Olympics Athlete’s Village, the venues for the Games, the Official Sponsors, the mascots, and much, much more.

Background information

For the last 2 years, the Poverty Olympics, a community-led event, has been staged in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver in British Columbia. It involves skits loosely based on Olympic events and features its own Poverty Anthem and official mascots. The purpose of the Poverty Olympics is to advocate for poverty reduction in BC, an aim captured in our slogan – End Poverty: It’s Not a Game.

Our intent is not to disrespect the athletes or the concept of sporting competition, but to emphasise the higher priorities of addressing poverty and homelessness in BC. To this end, the event has in previous years focused on the broken promises of the Olympic’s own Inner City Inclusivity Report which features a number of poverty reduction commitments, and emphasised the discrepancies between Olympic spending and government spending towards social programs that would alleviate poverty.