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Poverty rate reduction strategy for Nelson will affect surrounding areas: Together Nelson

Rona Park, part of the Together Nelson leadership roundtable, said during the December Regional District of Central Kootenay board of directors meeting that the very specific Nelson problem of a high percentage of people living in poverty did not have a Nelson specific answer — TND file photo.

There will be a ripple effect in the region in trying to reduce the 18.6 per cent poverty rate in Nelson, a member of Together Nelson said recently.

Rona Park, part of the Together Nelson leadership roundtable, said during the December Regional District of Central Kootenay board of directors meeting that the very specific Nelson problem of a high percentage of people living in poverty did not have a Nelson specific answer.

When Together Nelson — a community-based initiative to better understand local poverty — was formed last year it undertook development of a strategy for the city to reduce the poverty rate by 25 per cent — or 500 people — the region the Heritage city served was expected to be affected as well, she said.

The city is a central employment, education, recreation and services hub for people living in surrounding communities, Park explained, so what happens in Nelson affects the rest of the region.

In the development of a poverty reduction strategy for Nelson — released in its first report last month — the community and the surrounding region has a huge role to play.

“Although this strategy reflects Nelson data and community consultation it will have a ripple effect beyond the city of Nelson by offering opportunities that have the potential to reduce poverty for many individuals that are living in the areas immediately surrounding Nelson,” she said. “We all have a responsibility for making this kind of change and working together.”

The Together Nelson Community Action Strategy is data-driven and focuses on highest need with priority consideration given to the two largest groups currently experiencing poverty in Nelson and area: single parents; and low income earners.

At the heart of Together Nelson’s effort is the aim of reducing the current 18.6 per cent poverty rate (2,114 people) by four per cent over the next four years, by focusing its efforts and lifting 500 people — primarily in those two priority groups — out of poverty. The provincial average for a community is 8.9 per cent and the national average is 10.9 per cent.

The strategy is a framework for creating change and it involves 30 to 40 community leaders working as a backbone group, a community advisory group, a leadership table and four action teams.

In the first year Together Nelson will be pulling together all component parts of the project, with year two to four spent delivering on it, and year four assessing the project.

“We know that ending poverty will not happen in four years, but we are committed to keep working at it in a development sort of way,” said Park.

She asked the RDCK to publicly endorse the strategy and promote poverty reduction and economic inclusion as regional priorities, as well as provide support for the next UBCM funding application.

A request was made at the board table for a letter of support to be sent around to the directors to sign.

 

Five pathways to change

To achieve its goals, Together Nelson has identified five pathways to change which represent the top priority areas for action that have been identified through local data and community consultations.

Below is a brief description of each pathway to change and how they support poverty reduction.

Employment and income

Adequate employment and income are central to reducing poverty.

Employment and income generating activities focus on ensuring more people earn liveable wages and receive applicable government benefits.

• Education and skill building

Youth and adults need foundational skills for finding and maintaining employment, optimizing their incomes, increasing financial assets, and reducing debt.

Education and skill building opportunities will help develop appropriate and relevant skills needed to navigate life successfully.

• Affordable housing

Affordable and appropriate housing increases the likelihood that people will remain healthy and engaged in community life.

Housing should cost no more than 30 per cent of a person’s total income. A broad range of affordable housing options will help to ensure everyone’s right to a place to call home.

• Transportation

Public transportation is essential, especially for those on lower incomes, for accessing work, education, recreation, and essential health services.

Residents of Nelson and area require a transportation system that provides convenient, accessible and affordable options.

• Access to services

Accessing and navigating health, justice, and community-based social services can be complex and overwhelming.

A more coordinated and integrated service network will mean easier access and navigation, promote usage, and improve service efficacy.

Source: Together Nelson