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Project takes a hard look at poverty in the Comox Valley

Objective is to reduce poverty in the Comox Valley by 25 per cent over four years
Poverty is a sad reality for some people in the Comox Valley. Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

A regional Poverty Assessment and Reduction Strategy aims to reduce poverty in the Comox Valley by 25 per cent over the next four years. The draft project also aims to understand the challenges and barriers faced by people experiencing poverty, and to identify gaps in services.

The strategy is a partnership between local governments, the K’ómoks First Nation, the Coalition to End Homelessness, the Community Health Network and the Social Planning Society. It builds upon insights gathered through a regional Housing Needs Assessment and the Comox Valley Child Care Action Plan, as well as efforts of local service providers and organizations.

The strategy considers the following focus areas: housing, social supports, food security, livable income, affordable transportation, social inclusion, and families, children and youth.

Urban Matters conducted a community survey of 213 participants, 14 interviews with service providers, and sharing circles with people with lived experience. Consultants found that cost of living and housing affordability were the top two barriers faced by people. There is also a significant need for housing that is accessible and connected to public transportation.

“Often, individuals are needing to make significant tradeoffs in their lives,” Erin Welk of Urban Matters said in a presentation to the regional district board May 11. “One of these tradeoffs relate to healthy food.”

Nearly half the survey respondents did not have access to nutritious food year-round. Oftentimes, people do not have enough money to cover an unexpected cost, Welk added.

Most survey respondents indicated a need for mental health services.

A Game Changer Workshop Thursday, May 20 will aim to identify priority areas and ideas for poverty reduction in the region. It also aims to build relationships to generate change and increase collaboration across organizations.

“The reality is that many in our community struggle with poverty,” Courtenay director Doug Hillian said, noting a link between early learning disadvantages and poverty.

He questioned if the Valley has unique challenges, or if the region’s needs are a reflection of every B.C. community. Welk said accessibility and transportation challenges are unique to the Comox Valley.

Area B director Arzeena Hamir said the CV Child Care Collaborative is considering some innovative models of bringing programs into rural areas. She hopes the group can make a presentation to the board.

“I think it speaks to many of the issues that are brought up here around the isolation of young families in the rural areas,” Hamir said.

The Poverty Assessment and Reduction Strategy is expected to be complete by June 29.

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