Last week, I participated in the Collective Impact session hosted by the Revelstoke Poverty Working Group—a team of people trying to address Revelstoke’s affordability issues.
Community members were invited by Gary Sulz, Michelle Cole, Kevin Dorrius or Sheena Bell to take part in the session as a wide variety of passionate people with both expertise and lived experience brought their voices to the table.
The event started on Tuesday evening with guest speaker Ingrid Brohn, who shared some statistics about income levels in Revelstoke.
Did you know that at least 4.5 per cent of people in Revelstoke are living in what is considered deep poverty?
For some context, the federal government defines low income as a household whose income is below 50 per cent of the median (middle) household income. Persistent poverty is someone who has been low income for six years or more.
In Revelstoke’s Community Poverty Reduction Strategy, poverty is defined as individuals and families who lack to opportunity, financially and otherwise to maintain a decent standard of living and to participate fully and with dignity in our community.
Indicators of deep poverty include those depending on income assistance, homelessness and food bank usage.
Cathy English spoke of Revelstoke’s historic struggles as well as some of the creative solutions that the citizens before us came up with.
From there we turned to our table neighbours and discussed affordability issues that we have seen in the community.
Seating was assigned so there was a variety of different people sharing different stories and experiences.
At my table, we had a few grandparents who were providing daycare and after-school care for their grandkids because their children can’t afford child care expenses.
We had a business man who talked about paying his employees minimum wage but trying to make it up in other ways such as giving them store discounts and good benefits.
I talked about how we seem to be missing out on supporting the people in the middle, the ones who are one paycheque away from being homeless but have it pretty good as long as nothing goes wrong.
A couple of tables over, there was a woman who shared with the room that she was living in poverty because she couldn’t work due to a chronic illness.
Her experiences and perspectives added a needed depth and immediacy to the conversation.
I was reminded that no matter how hard I try to see and understand all of the factors of the homeless problem, I will always miss something.
The next day we built on those ‘problems’ and discussed what we would like to see from there the conversation morphed into what we can do to make solutions happen.
This is where I was really impressed with the event.
The creative ideas and the passion for change that those people had was inspiring and hopeful, which was nice after the draining discussions about poverty and issues.
We talked about car sharing, greenhouses, multi-use residential buildings (rentals and condos and townhouses all in one), neighbourhood block parties and a new multi-organizational community centre that would house the food bank and other programs and initiatives.
Some projects were big and will take time and money, others were donned ‘easy wins’ and could happen in the next few months.
That’s where it starts, with good ideas and passionate people—and we have no shortage of those in Revelstoke. I for one am looking forward to pitching in and seeing what we can make happen.
Jocelyn Doll is the editor of the Revelstoke Review.