Broader Perspectives on Complex Poverty

28 March, 2024 | Initiatives and Projects

Complex poverty is a social model that explains how the lack of access to life’s basic needs impacts every aspect of a person’s life, including their health and well-being. Réseau Compassion Network has been using this model to help guide the ways we respond to unmet needs in our communities.

As part of the Réseau Compassion Network Speakers Series, Professor Jim Silver was invited to speak about his experiences and knowledge of complex poverty on March 8, 2024. He is a Professor Emeritus, Urban and Inner-City Studies with the University of Winnipeg and has been deeply involved in redevelopment projects for hotels, parks and inner-city neighbourhoods.  

“Poverty is a major, major issue in Winnipeg,” shares Silver. “The people who are poor suffer as a result. It’s costly to society, as well. There are a lot of factors that impact people’s lives and health, and I feel compelled to talk about it, to try to understand it.”

His presentation explained the basic concepts of complex poverty, and made suggestions about how each can be addressed. As an example, someone with poor health might struggle to make enough income to have a stable home. Conversely, someone who cannot find or afford a stable home might see worse health outcomes due to stress and lack of safety. The complex poverty model posits that many factors of wellness are interconnected and impacted through no fault of the individual. They can be alleviated through different funding and service-providing models, which require a shift in how programming is currently delivered.

Jim Silver

The group of approximately 40 attendees, plus another 20 guests who registered to attend virtually, learned about the model and were able to ask questions, leading to a robust discussion. Topics like political will, reconciliation and grassroots movements were addressed by the crowd. Silver believes that the taxation model might have to shift to create more funds to address complex poverty.

Further discussion focused on how to make more Manitobans aware of the realities of poverty. “We’re a very segregated city,” admits Silver. “Many citizens have absolutely no experience with people who are poor. They don’t understand what’s happening, and it’s a big job to make more people aware of these factors.”

That said, Silver is optimistic for the ways that health and social services agencies can play a role in providing supports and relieving some of the acute impacts of complex poverty. “I think it’s important to be intelligently optimistic,” he says. “Things can change fast. Oftentimes, the work being done by organisations like Réseau Compassion Network can make a difference. You work and work and all of a sudden, something happens. I know that, I’ve seen that happen, and that’s grounds for optimism. If we keep working and keep doing good work, it is likely that good things will happen.”


To better understand complex poverty, and what Réseau Compassion Network is doing to address it, please click HERE.

To learn more about upcoming presentations in our Speakers Series, please click HERE.