Anyone wanting to help reduce poverty in Williams Lake is invited to a workshop at the Pioneer Complex on Thursday, Dec. 6.
Organizer Anne Burrill said keynote speaker Paul Born of Vibrant Communities Canada, Tamarack Institute, will share how communities across Canada are undertaking work to reduce poverty.
“We will be looking poverty game changes and what we are already doing in the community and some of the leverage points where we can actually start to work on bigger systemic issues and have an impact,” Burrill said.
Burrill, who has been working with the Housing First program in Williams Lake, said the workshop is being presented by Thrive, a poverty-reduction initiative being hosted by the Social Planning Council and the Cariboo Chilcotin Partners for Literacy.
The workshop goes from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. and anyone wanting to register is asked to contact Burrill by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Burrill provided an update on Thrive to city council at a meeting in November and described those living in poverty in the Williams Lake area.
“We are talking about people who are struggling to meet their basic needs in whatever way they can. We’re talking about families that are struggling to give their children opportunities that they never had. We’re talking about single parents who are working a couple of part-time minimum wage jobs and hoping to be able to see their kids at night.”
She also said there are people who are “handcuffed” because they grew up in families where there was trauma, stress and struggle, who have poverty issues as a result, as well as people who have lost their income due to the economic depression in the mid and late 2000s and when their EI ran out had to sell their assets and apply for social assistance.
“About 40 per cent of people in B.C. who live below the poverty line are employed,” she added. “They are the people who care for our kids, they clean our buildings, serve our food and some of them are even small business owners and they are struggling.”
Poverty is more than a problem of income, she added, noting there are many programs in Williams Lake assisting people who are struggling and helping them to meet their basic needs, but Thrive is about trying to find long-term solutions.
“For a community to be great it has to be great for everybody. We want to move from providing bandaids and safety nets to providing trampolines so that people who have fallen through the cracks of our system can actually be caught and lifted back up into a reasonable quality of life and life of dignity.”
Burrill invited city staff and council to attend the workshop.
“We would love to have your input. Municipal government has an incredible opportunity to be an advocate in some of these issues, and a leader, and an advocate for other levels of government that have the ability to make policy changes that have a significant impact.”
Thrive has been surveying people living in poverty with an online survey, as well as doing one-on-one interviews and focus groups.
“The number one thing for people has been the level of stress, and the impact it has on their mental and physical health,” Burrill said. “That was the thing that almost everybody said.”
They are also working with local partners on an initiative called Business At Its Best and gathering examples of employers that are providing good jobs.
“We have an online survey for this as well and it’s a partnership with the city, Chamber of Commerce, the Downtown Business Association, Community Futures and WorkBC. We are collecting examples of great jobs and we will share those out and celebrate those employers.”