Friday, July 13, 2018

Community consultations, like one in Prince Rupert, helped to lay foundation for Province's Poverty Reduction Study

The Province of British Columbia released the findings from its Poverty Reduction study on Thursday, the document the first stage of provincial government's plans towards a Poverty Reduction Strategy.

That provincial initiative will be rolled out later this fall when the Legislature is called back to its duties, with the consultations and findings of the Poverty Reduction tour making for some of the foundation of the NDP government's Poverty Reduction Strategy plans.

In the introduction to the report, Shane Simpson the Minister of Social Development and Poverty Reduction offered up some observations on the first glimpse views of the findings from earlier this year.

The response was overwhelming. Thousands of people shared their thoughts and ideas through in-person meetings or written submissions. We heard from people who live in poverty, who shared their personal experiences, their struggles, and the difficult choices they make each day. 

We heard clearly about the need to improve affordability throughout B.C., not just in urban centres. We heard the need to create opportunities to break the cycle of poverty. We heard about the need to promote social inclusion and to foster a culture of dignity and respect for marginalized people and groups. We heard about racism, colonialism and the need to take real action on reconciliation.

The Executive Summary to the report, took note of many of the recurring themes that were found from the study period, including those raised during the 28 community public meetings held across the province.

 A look at some of the key findings from the first phase
of consultation on the Province's
Poverty Reduction strategy

(click to enlarge)

The engagement with British Columbians provided for 68 stakeholder submissions, 1,063 contributions by online feedback, 24 telephone, mail or voicemail submissions and over 16,000 website visits. The 28 community meetings attracted over 2500 participants, while other small group discussion sessions in the province were attended by close to 2800 participants.

The Prince Rupert session took place in early January and featured participation from the City of Prince Rupert, Nisga'a Lisims Government and North Coast Transition House Society along with residents and service providers around the city.

As part of that local forum, 180 participants were asked to provide their thoughts on poverty and poverty reduction, steered by two questions that directed the focus for the local consultation.

Those findings generated thirty one pages of comments and observations from the forum participants.

What are the issues facing you and people in poverty right now?

Participants identified Housing concerns, access to services and supports in the community, lack of employment options and Transportation issues as the most often recurring themes towards

Service delivery gained a fair bit of attention particularly the need for solutions towards getting children to and from school, a need for more parenting programs, a call for increased health care services locally and a change in approach as to how service providers treat those that are seeking their assistance.

The stigma of poverty also made for a frequent theme, with participants noting that government sometimes makes things worse through its bureaucracy, that there is feeling that you have to be for help, a lack of information, or misinformation when it comes to services available in the community, too many unfulfilled promises by government. Bias based on stereotypes and perceptions have had impacts in the way of seeking accommodation or looking for start up assistance when it comes to starting a business.

Housing issues were a prime focus for the forum, with the policies from Ma'kola Housing receiving some attention, as well as as concerns over the lack of housing for single men, a need for larger spaces for families, and the concentration of property in the hands of speculators who jack up rents or flip houses. The increasing level of rent for existing properties also generates some discussion and how renters often have to make a decision between paying for heat and/or going without food to cover  heating and other housing costs.

Providing for more services for the youth of the community delivered a range of concerns and thoughts, with many noting that with few programs in the community the city's youth tend to gravitate to the downtown area. Some noted that recent vandalism in the community could be a result of the lack of programs for youth in the community. It was also noted that youth facing issues at home or now on their own were doing a fair bit of couch surfing in the community owing to the lack of housing options available.

The lack of support for those with mental health problems and/or addictions was also highlighted, with participants noting that there is no safe house available and no treatment programs which leads to addiction problems for those in need.

What would address the issues and help you and people out of poverty?

Towards solutions on some of the themes identified, participants called for better hours and improved service from BC Housing to address local housing concerns. As well as for a call to cover gaps in existing programs, tailor assistance more towards the need, better supports for parents with children and more assistance for kids.

When it comes to employment or employment assistance, there was a recurring desire to see better training programs in place, more flexibility when it comes to how EI hours are calculated, a need for a better way to share port jobs in the community,

Housing solutions dominated much of the commentary, with calls for more Single room occupancy units for the community, a need for better protection for tenants and access to housing, closing loopholes when it comes to renovictions.  Expansion of a shelter program to keep them open longer into the year and to provide for showers, as well as the need for a day facility for the homeless when the shelter is closed. Make better used of empty buildings to be turned into more affordable housing in the community.

Solutions towards transportation issues both local and regional were offered up including a call for local shuttle buses to get around, with drop off and pick up points downtown and at area industrial sites like Ridley. More frequent local bus service and a need to address access to Terrace and beyond, with many noting that the train is not a viable option owing to the congestion on the rail lines.

The consultation did take place prior to the end of Greyhound service, so many of the comments on transportation related to the then pending end of service and well before the province introduced its own BC Bus system, which launched in May of this year on a one year trial period.

You can review the full Prince Rupert report here.

More background on the province's Poverty Reduction planning can be found here.

Further items of interest related to the British Columbia Legislature can be explored through our archive page here, while a wider overview of provincial issues is available from our D'Arcy McGee portal.

To return to the most recent blog posting of the day, click here.

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