According to data compiled by the Phoenix Foundation and released in its latest Vital Signs report, vacancy rates for housing in Grand Forks were increasing, prior to the flood of 2018. Under study right now from the regional district, that availability of housing has likely remained stagnant or fell since.
Vital Signs, a study done every five years by the granting organization, surveys residents of the Boundary on their concerns, priorities and impressions of livability in the region. Out of the approximately 12,000 people who live between Christina Lake and Carmi, just under 500 filled out the survey, or around four per cent.
“It’s a snapshot of our Boundary region, to gauge the health of a number of sectors,” said Phoenix Foundation president Gary Smith.
Boundary students are getting more face time with teachers, thanks to smaller than average class sizes, high school students are graduating at or higher than the rate of their provincial peers, but after Grade 12 are finding it challenging to pursue further education locally. The youth exodus marks a pinch in the hour-glass shaped graph that represents the ages of of the Boundary’s population. There is a significant drop off through the mid-20s.
Understanding the data, Vital Signs 2019 prescribes promoting “conversation between local employers and schools to create recruitment and training opportunities.” Nearly 200 survey respondents, or 39 per cent, noted that “limited course offerings” locally were perceived to be a barrier to additional training or education for residents. Workers in the Boundary with a background in trades outnumber, per capita, the workforce through the rest of B.C. and Canada at large.
This past winter, lunch at the Anglican Church was drawing several dozen people per day. In 2019, the Boundary Community Food Bank saw a record number of clients – from children through single adults and seniors. More than one third of the Vital Signs survey respondents indicated that they “disagree or strongly disagree” that the cost of feeding themselves or their family was reasonable.
To feed the need, the Boundary, renowned for its growing capacities, forges on producing fresh food, locally.
Survey respondents also indicated that they would like to see the region double down on local sustainability, before resorting to trucking in food from elsewhere.
“These are things that we’d like to see,” said Smith of the actions prescribed to address the feedback on each of the nine key categories evaluated. “As we work towards a poverty reduction strategy [undertaken by the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary], we can get everybody around the table from every single sector that’s available out there. And then people can take ownership of the issues that they can competently address.”
Vital Signs also serves as a directional tool for organizations applying for capital grants from the Phoenix Foundation. This year, there is nearly $81,000 available from the Phoenix Foundation, along with another pot of money the organization is managing for the Grand Forks Credit Union (GFCU).
The GFCU money is earmarked for projects that address community economic development, financial literacy and sustainable economics, reducing environmental impact and finally agriculture and local food sector development.
Grant committee chair Ted Invictus said that the number of people impacted by an organization’s project plays a key role in determining its viability for a grant. Likewise, applicants who can demonstrate the financial capacity to fund a project on their own (the Phoenix Foundation reimburses upon completion) are also prioritized.
Organizations looking to apply for funding are encouraged to submit a letter of interest as soon as possible. The deadline for letters is March 31. Submission forms and grant application information can be found at www.phoenix-foundation.ca.