Across the Boundary, when issues related to poverty, housing and food security crop up, local social services and governments have often been tasked with cobbling together solutions. Now, with a potential provincial grant, Boundary directors of the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary (RDKB) are planning to investigate causes and solutions to some of the region’s unique challenges to tackle them in a more comprehensive way.
At a Boundary Community Development Committee meeting in January, Phoenix Foundation president Gary Smith presented west-end RDKB directors with a route that he said will help understand particular issues at play in the Boundary, through the development of a poverty reduction strategy, and subsequent projects to implement the strategy.
“Given that the feds released Canada’s first poverty reduction strategy in the fall,” Smith said, “which was followed then by the province, I think it’s just an opportune time to take advantage of [funding available].”
B.C.’s provincial report set a target of reducing overall poverty by one quarter and child poverty by half, by 2024.
The Boundary area is eligible for up to $100,000 in funding for the study, which could dovetail with a housing needs assessment currently underway. Once the study is complete, the region will then have access to provincial funding to implement specific projects that were highlighted.
Across the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary (RDKB), which spans from the Columbia river dams east of Trail to Big White in the west, every single jurisdiction on the west side of the Paulson Pass sits below the median income level for the region as a whole.
The Lower Columbia area of B.C., essentially the east end of the RDKB including Trail and Rossland, produced its own poverty reduction strategy in 2017 with grant money from the Columbia Basin Trust, Teck, a local credit union and other non-profits. In it, authors highlighted key metrics in housing, food security, health, social and community services, learning and development and the local economy that they would track and address through particular initiatives and programs.
Among the study’s conclusions for housing, for example, were goals focused on making concerted efforts to conduct “a regular homelessness count” and actively target land and money to develop residences. The study also recommended eliminating public transit fares for people who live in households below the low-income measure, and to “encourage retention of [Early Childhood Education] workers by advocating for living wages […].”
The RDKB voted at a late January meeting to pursue the grant.