With budget top of mind for Ontario voters, it’s time to talk about who’s winning and who’s losing in our economy. The evidence couldn’t be clearer: the divide between the rich and poor continues to widen. And many of us who are doing well simply have no clue how poor our neighbours are.

Or maybe the problem isn’t that we don’t know, it’s that we think living in poverty is a lifestyle choice. We blame people who are poor for shoddy budgeting or getting themselves into bad situations.

At Community Food Centres Canada, we know this couldn’t be further from the truth…

Tent cities are not the ultimate solution to a housing crisis but play an extremely important role, says a Vancouver lawyer who has fought on behalf of homeless people in that city.

A homeless camp allows vulnerable people to be together for emotional support and safety, provides community and makes it easier for social service agencies to find and help them, said Anna Cooper, with Vancouver-based Pivot Legal Society, which works alongside marginalized communities.

“Tent cities are also playing an extremely important role in harm reduction right now, while we’re in the midst of a national overdose crisis,” she said.

Andrea Horwath’s NDP is at the top of the class when it comes to dealing with the health impacts of poverty, according to a report from an alliance of anti-poverty health-care workers in Ontario.

The New Democrats earned a B+ in the Health Providers Against Poverty election report card, while the Green Party of Ontario was given a C+ and the Liberals a D+. The Progressive Conservatives received a failing grade because their platform met “only a small proportion” of the authors’ criteria. The report was initially released last week and then updated over the weekend to accommodate the late-arriving PC platform.

Last month, Prince Edward-Lennox & Addington Social Services (PELASS) completed its participation in Ontario’s homeless enumeration, the first province-wide count of its kind in Canada.

Through the assistance of 20 services providers in both counties including food banks, health providers and other community services, more than 100 questionnaires were completed by those considered homeless or precariously housed.

Questions on the survey included participants’ current living conditions, history and reasons for homelessness, health issues and more. The information collected over the week is being collated and presented to the province, municipal governments and any local service providers interested in the final report.