Committee details poverty work in Cranbrook

The Cranbrook Poverty Reduction Committee updated council on the initiative.

Arne Petryshen

The Cranbrook Poverty Reduction Committee updated council on the initiative. Kerri Wall and Riley Wilcox were in council as a delegation from the Cranbrook Poverty Reduction Committee on Monday. They talked to council about what the committee has been working on in the community, as well as what they are working on the provincial level with other poverty reduction committees.

Wall said part of the initiative is helping families who are living in poverty to meet their needs and access services.

“A big part of the work we’re doing as a committee is focusing community efforts on increasing awareness,” Wall said. “We’re trying to bring together parties who are working sort of separately with people who are on lower incomes and convene a table where we can all work closer together, support each other’s work and have more of a focus.”

Wall said the whole thing started as an initiative of the provincial government under the Ministry of Children and Family Development and the UBCM, in 2012. It was a pilot project with  seven communities, of which Cranbrook was one. The past council signed on, along with Prince George, Kamloops, Surrey, New Westminster, Stewart and Port Hardy.

“It’s evolved over the years,” Wall said. “Now of course we have a different city council here.”

Wall did note that Coun. Wesly Graham was a big part of the initiative since it first started.

Graham was on a UBCM committee when he was a councillor in Creston.

“They played a large role in lobbying the provincial government,” she said.

Recently the UBCM has sent letters to the communities involved that it is planning to pull out of the poverty initiatives.

“They have decided that it wasn’t going the way they wanted it to go and they have limited resources to put towards it,” she said. “However, the communities are all still running, and in fact we have many more communities in the province that are doing poverty reduction work besides the seven communities.”

Wall said the big reason is that B.C. is the only province without a poverty reduction strategy.

“And secondly, we are the province with the highest rate of child poverty, for eight of the last nine years running,” Wall said. “So we have a big poverty problem here and not really a comprehensive response to it.”

Wilcox, who is from the Cranbrook and District Community Foundation, said they are working to enhance the work some of the groups in town are doing and try to create a more collaborative table.

“The work that we’re doing in October is around awareness, whether that’s a person that’s in need of assistance at that time, or perhaps you’re a person who wants to be of assistance — how can we direct you to some areas in the community where you can be of help?” Wilcox said.

Wilcox said they are also hosting a drive for essentials around warm clothing, hand warmers, food warmers, personal hygiene — things that are less likely to be dropped off at the food bank.

Coun. Tom Shypitka asked where the initiatives get funding from.

Wall said a lot of their funding comes through grant applications.

Coun. Ron Popoff said he thought the initiative was on the right track consolidating the organizations as much as possible.

“From a council perspective we want to see that consolidation so that when it’s time to talk the issues and resources it just makes it a little cleaner to do that,” Popoff said.