Revelstoke is planning a strategy for understanding a reducing poverty in our community.
As part of the development of the strategy, a Mar. 15 workshop brought together about 30 Revelstoke social services workers and two visiting guests.
Revelstoke social development coordinator Jill Zacharias said the groundwork for the poverty reduction strategy has been ongoing for a few months. “This was the first big kick at the can in terms of the community consultation process,” Zacharias said of the Mar. 15 meeting.
“All the research points to the fact that it’s got to be a really comprehensive community approach,” Zacharias said. “Poverty is a very, very complex thing.”
The issues affect the entire communities in many ways; the important part for all stakeholders, says Zacharias, is understanding how broad the impacts can be. “The key thing is to get people to see the big picture, like how the cost of living is impacting people’s ability to contribute to our economy – to shop locally, to function locally at any level that costs money.”
Local research indicates 20 per cent of Revelstoke (and area) residents are struggling to meet their basic needs.
Zacharias looked at a 10-year trend on tax filing data to compare incomes with the cost of living. Other statistical sources included five-years of hunger count data, housing outreach statistics on homelessness as well as an affordability analysis.
She said 17 per cent of tax filers in Revelstoke are low income, but when the affordability analysis is factored in, the number is 20 per cent. “Most people in varying degrees are dealing with the issues,” she added.
Revelstoke was worse off in 2002, but conditions improved over the next year. Starting in 2008 the trend again worsened.
“So if you look at that in terms of our local economy, it’s pretty significant,” Zacharias said. “So, how can we as a community get together to develop strategies that aren’t necessarily band-aid approaches, but to look at upstream measures to address the cost of living in our community and assisting people to meet their basic needs.”
A statistical analysis and an affordability analysis will be key parts of the strategy. “The next step will be to feed all of these inputs into an overall strategy,” she said.
“Very, very productive in terms of just everyone coming together to talk about some key … [topics].
Guest and presenter Jim Sands is a project coordinator with the Social Planning a Research Council of B.C. (SPARC). Sands said there was strong evidence Revelstoke had a solid social services foundation. “We can really see it in the room that people have connection and have shared experience and have a really strong foundation to work off of,” Sands said. “That’s not the case everywhere.”Zacharias hopes to release a draft of Revelstoke’s poverty reduction strategy in April, including a public presentation of the document.