Mother of 2 living in downtown Toronto on rising inflation: “I’m having a hard time” | PKBNEWS

Over the next six weeks, as part of the “Out of Pocket” series, PKBNEWS will examine the impact of inflation on Canadians from coast to coast.

A Toronto mother says she left everything behind when she decided to return to Canada from China with her two children.

The family lived abroad where her ex-husband worked.

Click to play video: 'Single mom of 2 living in downtown Toronto on rising inflation: 'I'm struggling a lot'

Single mom of 2 living in downtown Toronto on rising inflation: ‘I’m struggling a lot’

Helena said she and the children packed up in 2016 to “start over” again in Canada, leaving behind her husband, who she says was abusive.

Now she and the children – a 13-year-old girl and an 11-year-old boy – live in a small one-bedroom apartment in downtown Toronto.


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Making ends meet as a single mother is hard enough, but over the past few years the COVID-19 pandemic and high inflation have made things even harder for Helena.

PKBNEWS has agreed not to include his last name, for security and privacy reasons.

According to Helena, she receives no financial support from her ex-husband to help raise their children.

Also, with her family living in Japan, Helena and the two children have no additional support in Canada.

“I prefer to continue my life alone,” she said. “I’m happy, I have my peace, but financially I’m struggling a lot because it’s all on my shoulders.”


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Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Helena worked part-time at a fast food restaurant during the hours her children were at school.

But, like many others, she lost her job once the virus upended society.

Now that things have reopened and her children are a little older and more independent, Helena is working more. The majority of her waking hours Monday through Friday are spent at the law firm where she works.

Even still, his higher salary doesn’t match the ever-increasing prices of virtually any cash register.

“I have to pay my bills – electricity, phone. … Because my kids are growing up, I need to have a phone for safety now to always stay in touch,” she said.

Helena takes public transport wherever she needs to go because it’s cheaper than owning and parking a car in town.

Although she tries to cut costs wherever possible, ever-increasing bills and expenses force the family to live “paycheck after paycheck”.

Helena earns about $2,000 a month, but with rent at $1,500 a month, there isn’t much left to cover other bills or groceries.

“My biggest bill is the rent – ​​because if it was just me, I could share an apartment, or live in a basement or a flatshare, but I can’t. Nobody wants to rent a shared room (with) me because I have kids,” she said.


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Helena would like to move to a bigger place to better accommodate her children as they grow into teenagers, but said rent prices in Toronto were just “too expensive”.

Helena said the older her children got, the more the expenses seemed to multiply.

According to Helena, she spends around $700 on groceries each month to feed her family.

Helena buys snacks and other food items at the dollar store, but wants to give her children healthier options.

“Because my kids go to school…I try to make sure my kids have breakfast,” she said, adding that she likes to send them fruit and other healthy snacks, instead of simply “junk food”.

She has been using the food bank for a few years to supplement what she can buy.

“I always try to cook something healthy,” she said. “But, of course, fruit is expensive.”


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Anila Lee Yuen, president and CEO of the Center for Newcomers, said inflation “amplifies the vulnerability” of newcomers to Canada or those returning to the country after years of absence.

Lee Yuen said single mothers are vulnerable, as they have to bear all the costs to raise their children, but have many other duties as primary caregivers, such as being there to help with homework or being available. to stay home with them if they are on sick leave from school.

“It all depends on this one person – it all depends on mom,” said Lee Yuen, adding that single mothers have to do everything while finding a stable job.

“What we see at all levels, not just with newcomer populations or even racialized communities, but at all levels (is) people who don’t have living wages.… If you don’t win not a minimum of $22 an hour, full-time work, you’re not going to be able to take care of yourself,” she explained.

Click to play the video: “Out of Pocket: Inflation has a big impact on the Nova Scotia business owner and investment advisor”

Out of Pocket: Inflation has a big impact on the Nova Scotia business owner and investment advisor

Lee Yuen said that in order to have “a semblance of a dignified life and a living environment”, as all humans deserve, a real living wage is necessary.

However, Lee Yuen said even those who have jobs find it “very difficult” because of inflation.

Inflation and food insecurity

The latest Canadian Food Prices Report released last month revealed that food prices rose 10.3% in Canada in 2022. The report suggests that a family of four spent $15,222.80 in food last year.

The report also estimates that food prices will rise another 5-7% on average in 2023, adding hundreds of additional dollars to the average family’s annual expenses.

Neil Hetherington, CEO of the Daily Bread Food Bank, said many families, even those with full-time working parents, are struggling to make ends meet as the cost of living continues to rise.

In 2021, Hetherington said there was a “doubling” in the number of people who had full-time jobs but had access to food banks year on year.

“What used to be about 15 per cent of food bank clients who had full-time positions; that number now represents 30% of the people we serve,” he said.

“When we were growing up, we thought, ‘OK, well, you go to college, you get a degree and you get a job, you’ll be fine,'” he continued. It’s a reality, and about 50% of the people who go to food banks have a post-secondary education, and they’ve done everything right, and yet they can’t make ends meet.

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A recent poll conducted exclusively for PKBNEWS by Ipsos Public Affairs between December 14-16, 2022 found that 36% of Canadians said their financial situation was “poor” or “fairly bad” heading into 2023.

According to Hetherington, in 2022 more than 100,000 people in Toronto accessed a food bank for the first time.

Additionally, Hetherington said food bank forecasts for 2023 suggest the number of people with access to food banks in the Toronto area will increase from 200,000 in December 2022 to 266,000 in June.

“We’re kind of in this weird state of low unemployment, but pretty high inflation and rising interest rates,” he said. “You put all of these factors together, and what does that mean for the average person? Well, that means their take home pay will likely be lower and their costs will go up, which means the food bank will serve more people.

Hetherington said while food bank numbers aren’t the only useful metric for determining how many people are food insecure or struggling to make ends meet, they are a “big metric” for determining what is happening in society in real time.

“It gives a crisp and clear picture that we now find ourselves in a situation that we have never been in before,” he said.

Other expenses that accumulate

For Helena, food is not the only expense on her mind as her children continue to grow.

She said that as her children get older, they become more and more “picky” about the clothes and shoes they wear.

The family receives second-hand items from friends and other members of the community.

Otherwise, Helena will try to find what her kids want from second-hand options like Facebook Marketplace or thrift stores.

“Even for me, I don’t buy clothes anymore,” she says. “Because it’s so expensive because I have to think twice before spending it.”

Only absolutely necessary items are purchased.

Helena works hard to provide for her children, but says doing it alone can sometimes be overwhelming.

“I have to do what I have to do as a mother to raise my children,” she said. “I know a lot of stories that some mothers leave their children in an orphanage, but I don’t want to be one of them.”

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