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Posted: March 9, 2017

Poverty in Cranbrook: A story of social potholes

By Angela Beddome

Cranbrook’s slogan is “Mountains of Opportunity” for an active, safe lifestyle within an urban setting. Yet the truth is just like other places in Canada and B.C., our community has numerous poverty concerns.

The federal and provincial government acknowledge that poverty exists in Canada and there are exceptionally high rates in B.C. According to the 2015 BC Child Poverty Report Card, 16% of British Columbians live below the poverty line. Despite this concerning statistic, British Columbia is Canada’s only province or territory that has not established or made commitments towards a poverty reduction strategy.

Poverty is not having the means or resources to meet the needs of an individual, family or community. Poverty is having to choose between groceries or rent, a coat or school trip, a car or heat in the home, spending time with family or getting a second job to support them. It is stress, stigma, isolation and defeat. It is making choices not because we want too, but because we are forced to in order to survive. It is a cycle of barriers preventing access to healthy foods, education, housing, living-wage employment and resources that allow us to live our daily lives.

Anyone can become poor. In fact, if we base poverty solely on the inability to meet all household needs then you might already be living in poverty. According to a comparison of tax-filer data and the Statistics Canada Survey of Household Spending (SHS); 50% of Cranbrook residents were living with unmet need and 30% were not able to meet the needs of food and shelter alone in 2013.

Poverty doesn’t just affect people at an individual level, it affects whole communities. Due to continual downloading from federal > provincial > municipal > grassroots/non-profit organizations, poverty costs for cities are high. Economists and researchers are now discovering the resources needed to address the negative impacts of poverty come with a price at both provincial and municipal levels.

The City of Cranbrook’s budget estimates spending approximately 14% of its revenue on poverty related expenses including tax exemptions, grants, protective services and healthcare. According to a recent Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives report the estimated provincial cost of a comprehensive poverty reduction plan in B.C., is $3 billion per year. The estimated current yearly cost of doing nothing is $9.2 billion.

Complex economic and social change is needed in Cranbrook from a perspective that values the whole community and regional area.

The Cranbrook Poverty Reduction Committee as part of the Social Planning Society has taken some steps towards identifying indicators that will support the development and implementation of appropriate solutions in our communities. A report is currently being developed to identify a clear picture of how poverty affects individuals, families, youth, seniors, Indigenous peoples, municipal offices and businesses in our entire community.

This report will help us understand how all citizens along the socio-economic spectrum in Cranbrook view poverty, how it is experienced and will investigate some of the causes and potential solutions.

Secondly this report will help inform community development initiatives by determining what more can be done to reduce and eliminate poverty in our city. Local government and service agencies can use this report in advocacy efforts to map out strategies that have potential for community sustainability and economic development.

The Cranbrook Poverty Community Report is expected to be released at the end of March.

If you are interested in joining the poverty reduction cause or for more information please like and follow Cranbrook Social Planning Society’s Facebook page. Cranbrook Social Planning Society Facebook page features community interest articles, meeting details and activities will be posted.

The next meeting is scheduled for Monday, March 20 from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. at the Cranbrook United Church on 10th Avenue. Join us to learn of community services, activities and ways you may wish to be involved.

Angela Beddome is a Consultant for the Poverty Reduction Committee, Cranbrook Social Planning Society and Direct Support Professional- REALM

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