Investing in vestments
By Sara Marett
The University of Toronto is realizing many students are feeling the effects of a tightening financial grip and campus groups are attempting to tackle the problem by providing a clothing bank on campus.
The service has four locations on campus, featuring mainly winter coats and boots and is organized and operated completely by volunteers, said Ruth Perkins, executive assistant of Toronto's Graduate Students' Union and member of an anti-poverty group on campus. "There is a growing concern for the growing levels of poverty amongst students on campus," she said.
Perkins explained organizers held a clothing drive in October and opened the facilities the first week of November. She added the university has also had a food bank on campus for three years. The need for these services reflect that the cost of post-secondary education is being downloaded onto students, she said.
Jan Nolan, family care advisor at the University of Toronto, said there are factors other than rising tuition fees contributing to student poverty. She said students who used to be on welfare were recently transferred to the Ontario Student Assistance Plan and are therefore not used to receiving two lump sums of money instead of monthly payments.
"Plus, their earnings from OSAP are considered income at child care subsidy offices which makes things very difficult for students with dependents," she said.
However, David Neelands, assistant VP-student affairs for the university, said there are only a small number of students who fall through the cracks of normal support systems and need services such as food and clothing banks on campus.
Paula Platero, president of Western's Association of Continuing Education Students, said she finds it is the students who do not receive any financial assistance who are hurting the most. She said ACES holds "soup days" every Wednesday for students in need of the service. "I find there are the most people looking for help around Christmas and in January, right before OSAP cheques come in," she said.
University Students' Council VP-student issues Sam Castiglione said at this stage, there is no sign that Western needs a clothing bank on campus. "It's not an issue of forward thinking, it's about responding to need."