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Cranbrook one of seven towns to get pilot poverty reduction strategiesPosted: April 14, 2012

The province and the Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM) have identified seven communities to participate in a pilot project where poverty-reduction strategies will target the unique needs of families struggling to get out of poverty in those communities.

Cranbrook, Prince George, Port Hardy, Surrey, New Westminster, Stewart and Kamloops have been identified as the first to pilot community poverty-reduction strategies. These communities were recommended by the UBCM to reflect a mix of metro, urban, rural and remote communities across B.C.

“Communities are different. Families are different. That is the essence of this project that promotes collaboration and sharing new, innovative ideas that recognize each community and each family has distinctive needs and resources,” said Mary McNeil, Minister of Children and Family Development. “The goal is to provide low-income families with tailor-made springboards out of poverty by focusing on their strengths – not just their needs.”

The ministry is appointing seven community poverty strategy consultants to forge partnerships with local governments, community organizations and local businesses. The consultants will co-ordinate and lead community teams in developing action plans that address the needs of families living in poverty. Action plans with measurable targets will be developed over the summer with implementation scheduled for September 2012.

“It was an easy decision for me as mayor to say ‘yes’ to Cranbrook being one of the seven B.C. communities to take on this challenge as poverty, especially child poverty, is a concern to us all,” stated Cranbrook Mayor Wayne Stetski. “We are well placed to participate through one of our committees of council.”

The strategies will optimize existing resources and will initially focus on families with children living in poverty. They will be guided by feedback from town hall meetings, community discussions and conversations with low-income families and individuals vulnerable to poverty. Key to developing successful strategies is recognition that each community has distinctive needs and resources.

Community teams will take responsibility for the day-to-day implementation of the project. Key to these strategies is working directly with families to understand their individual needs, connect them with supports and to develop personalized paths out of poverty designed by families themselves.

“By customizing strategies to draw upon the assets in each community, this initiative will provide better support to families in need,” said UBCM president and Regional District of East Kootenay Electoral Area B director Heath Slee. “UBCM has been pleased to work closely with province on this project and we look forward to contributing more as part of the Provincial Steering Committee.”

“We firmly believe that helping people find their way out of poverty goes beyond addressing immediate needs and requires governments, businesses and community-based service providers to work collectively in developing approaches that address the underlying factors that result in families living in poverty,” said Executive Director of the United Way of Northern British Columbia Trevor Williams. “It is encouraging to see that this initiative involves a number of key partners in addressing the issue of families vulnerable to poverty.”

The Province will appoint a provincial steering committee, including representatives from provincial cabinet, the UBCM, the voluntary sector and the business community to guide the project.

Once the project has been implemented in the first seven communities, it will be evaluated and expanded to include 20 more communities each year for the next two years. Future strategies will be based on the successes of participating pilot communities and innovative approaches used successfully in other jurisdictions.

Cranbrook city councilors noted their appreciation of this program.

Coun. Sharon Cross serves on Cranbrook’s Family & Community Services Committee and being aware of several social services agencies engaged in initiatives to raise the level of prosperity among many area families, she sees the selection of Cranbrook for a pilot project as “very timely indeed.  The Community Social Planning Society of Cranbrook & Area is currently seeking a coordinator for the Quality of Life Challenge (Living Wage); Cranbrook was recently awarded $20,000 for a community garden and the Cranbrook Food Action Committee will be appearing as a delegation to the City’s Family & Community Services Committee in April; Street Angels are doing a tremendous job with limited resources; and the Salvation Army is in the process of obtaining funding for their new facility. We will be focusing on identifying existing assets and initiatives so we can optimize our resources through this Pilot Project in order to make a positive difference in our community,” she said.

“As Canadians, we often forget that poverty, and especially child poverty, does happen in our own country, and more alarmingly, in our own city. I do like what Mary McNeil states with respect to focusing on strengths – not just needs. Anything we can do to raise the level of awareness and assist in any way we are able, should be the goal of every Canadian,” stated Coun. Denise Pallesen.

Coun. Diana J Scott said she sees it as a good fit for Cranbrook, “especially as we have laid some groundwork already. Last term, our accessible housing committee did a report on affordable housing and the shelter coalition (homeless shelter) used that as part of its research.  All we’re waiting for at this point for the shelter is word on some provincial and federal funding.  I think the housing issues have brought forward the need to look at poverty in the community.  Also, we see the food bank still being utilized quite a bit, and groups like Street Angels have formed to fill in some much-needed gaps.  It’ll be interesting to see what this next project brings.”

For more information on supports for vulnerable families please visit

http://www.newsroom.gov.bc.ca/ministries/children-and-family-development/factsheets/reducing-poverty-for-low-income-families.html

 Ian Cobb/e-KNOW

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