Peg Sharing Circle - Exploring the Lived Experience of Poverty - Tiffany Mamakeesic

By Tiffany Mamakeesic, Christa Rust (Interviewer), Jason E.J. Manaigre (Technical Producer) on February 15, 2011

"I don't know too much about poverty other than I live there."

"Poverty is not being able to get what you need on a day to day basis."

Tiffany has lived at the Salvation Army for five years. She is a regular volunteer at Winnipeg Harvest, volunteering three times per week. In fact, she has been promoted to being the Saturday Volunteer Supervisor. She enjoys her work at there, as her tasks involve organizing and sorting. These are tasks that she does naturally.

Tiffany had a difficult childhood. Her parents were alcoholics and fought a lot. She related that she had too much knowledge about adult experiences. Consequently, she didn't want to grow up: it seemed too overwhelming. When she was a child, she enjoyed solo sports, especially skating. She would have pursued her skating, but they didn't have enough money and she didn't know who to contact for assistance. She developed anxieties and depression that affected her schooling. She did well at schoolwork, but she couldn't develop relationships with other students. Because of this, she dropped out in grade 10, though she completed her GED shortly thereafter. She became a drug addict, using alcohol, marijuana, and crack cocaine. She has been through treatment programs, but she continues to struggle.

As an adult, Tiffany has had difficulty with both employment and housing. While she is interested in going back to school, her anxiety and depression get in the way of furthering herself. She said that she doesn't want to "just go to school or get a job, just for the sake of getting a paycheque."

While she would like to live elsewhere, she has lived at the Salvation Army for years. She can't find anything decent. Tiffany doesn't want a hotel or a rooming house because they don't feel safe to her. She also needs her own bathroom. When she doesn't feel safe her anxiety increases. She said that she needs a thick door and a good lock. If she doesn't feel safe, she would just stay home and isolate herself.

Although at one point Tiffany said that she didn't know much about poverty, she was able to describe its conditions. She observed that "poverty is that you can't do the stuff you really want to do, the stuff that makes you happy. Stuff that makes you feel good. You can't afford it." She added that "poverty stops you from growing because you're worried about the next meal. You're worried about the roof over your house." Ultimately, she said, "Poverty - it's a weight on your shoulders that pushes you down."