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Posted: January 27, 2020

Focus grows on community poverty reduction

The Community Social Planning Society of Cranbrook and Area has been seeking to improve the living circumstances of all citizens since 2009.

What are ‘living circumstances’? This refers to things like residents’ access to housing, employment, education, civic engagement opportunities, recreation, health care, and the broad spectrum of social services that touch our lives – from childcare to hospice and everything in between.

This list of circumstances and services is sometimes called the social determinants of health, because it contains the items required to live in a state of health and wellness. For example, it’s very difficult to be healthy in unstable housing or if we can’t work due to a lack of childcare. What’s most interesting about the social determinants of health is their relationship to income and wealth.

Poverty reduction is finally an area of focus for our provincial and federal governments.

Canada released its first poverty reduction strategy Opportunity For All in 2018. British Columbia followed with Together BC in 2019. Because most funding and supports for education, employment, housing, and health care come from the two upper levels of government it makes sense for them to align these areas with a poverty reduction lens. But what about locally? Are there opportunities for our city or regional district to play a role?

We may not easily see poverty in Cranbrook, especially if we compare ourselves to what we observe when we visit places like Kelowna or Vancouver. Most of us don’t realize that at the Cranbrook Food Bank, of the people receiving hampers, 38.5% are children. Or we don’t know that the child poverty rate for the Regional District of East Kootenay is 15.3%.

The 2019 B.C. Child Poverty Report Card was just released a few weeks ago, and it states, “Eliminating child poverty is critical because we know the impacts of living in deep poverty are devastating for children and youth.”

The City of Cranbrook has been a leader in transit equity, and a model for many other communities with its free low-income bus pass program. This program operates as part of the city’s Leisure Access Program, which provides free or low-cost passes to municipal recreation opportunities for those who qualify.

City council has also been working hard to allow for the development of diverse housing options by rezoning properties, and they hired Creative Child Care Consulting to complete a City of Cranbrook Child Care Assessment (with provincial funding; it’s coming soon).

But there is more to be done in our community. All sectors and levels of government have roles to play in reducing poverty, and it’s important to work efficiently by collaborating. For instance, public and non- profit employment services can work with folks in post-secondary institutions as well as the business sector because they all have a goal of getting people jobs. And these organizations need to meaningfully connect with actual people who are under or unemployed, including youth; the experiences of ‘context experts’ are crucial.

The city could play a role by proactively combatting discrimination against people who live with poverty by creating policies to govern public engagements regarding housing. Too often municipal meetings and consultations about development or rezoning become places where the voices of homeowners are loud and the few marginalized people who attend such forums are silenced.

The B.C. Poverty Reduction Coalition reminds us, “While local governments can play an important role in poverty reduction – part of that role must include strong advocacy to senior levels of government to impact their priorities and necessary investments because many of the root causes of poverty are influenced through provincial policy.”

Follow the Cranbrook Social Planning Society Facebook page to stay informed about issues in your community; meeting details and activities are posted often.

The next meeting of the society is scheduled for Tuesday, February 18, starting at 10 a.m. in the Cranbrook Chamber of Commerce meeting room, 2279 Cranbrook Street North, with parking across the street; please enter from the side door.

Our thanks to the chamber for providing such a great place to hold our meetings. Join us to learn of community services, activities and ways you can be involved.

Community Social Planning Society

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