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Cranbrook conference will discuss ways to deal with homelessness, poverty

East Kootenay Collaborative for Reducing Poverty, Oct. 28 and 29, will share ideas and look a models that are working elsewhere

A two-day conference coming to Cranbrook next month is looking to discuss and develop solutions to the issues of homelessness and poverty that are front and centre in communities around the province.

The East Kootenay Collaborative for Reducing Poverty is set for October 28 and 29 at the Prestige Inn. The City of Cranbrook, RDEK, College of the Rockies and Cranbrook Chamber of Commerce and are partnering in the 2022 Poverty Reduction Planning and Action program — a new regional program developed to tackle homelessness and poverty at the local level, and support local and provincial government poverty reduction strategies.

Russell Workun, a member of the organizing committee, said earlier work with last year’s Cranbrook and Area Poverty Reduction Plan identified the need for collaboration — between advocates, agencies, non-profits and political leadership — to help find solutions to the issues of homelessness and poverty.

“We can’t keep working in our own silos,” Workun said. “We need a way to work together.

“We’re not going to be there to talk about the problems — we already know what the problems are. We’re there to hear about what can be done about them — the solutions. Hear what other groups are doing, and share some ideas that are working elsewhere.”

Attendance at the conference will be by invitation, Workun said. Non-profits from around the region, mayors and councillors, school and RCMP representatives — those people and organizations who have a stake in addressing poverty and homelessness in their communities.

He said the conference will focus on four areas: Affordable housing, child care, mental health and income/employment. The event will include presentations from other communities on initiatives that are reducing poverty — new models, and solutions that are being developed that could be applied to other communities. These could include innovative approaches to transportation, child care, employment barriers, and housing.

A representative from BC Housing will be on hand to talk about an interesting collaborative housing model that’s being used on Vancouver Island. The Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction will also be attending.

“It would be a good network opportunity for our various mayors and councillors as well,” Workun said.

Speakers will also talk about recognizing the traumas that can push people into these dire situations — domestic violence, single parenthood, access to health care, food security, physical disability, chronic illness, or other community issues.

“Mental health is a topic we’ve brought in because it’s so linked to homelessness and employment issues,” Workun added.

With the focus on those four aspects, Workun said the overall plan is to have a speaker do a presentation or a topic — “20 or 30 minutes” — then a facilitator will lead everyone through a break-out session.

“At the end, we hope to have a final break-out session where various communities or organizations can develop an action plan. Then we’ll follow up over the next couple of months to see how those plans are going, and hopefully have some positive stories for the final report.”

A dinner to wrap up the event on the Friday evening will feature a keynote speaker, Workun said, likely from the Tamarack Institute, who will talk about some of the work the Institute does.

The Tamarack Institute develops and supports collaborative strategies that engage citizens and institutions to solve major community issues, like poverty and homelessness. It runs courses for non-profits, and hosts conferences and webinars and these issues.

“We want to have this for the people who are involved with this kind of work,” Workun said. ”We’ll see where it goes,” “And hopefully we can dispel some of the rumours.”

Columbia Basin Trust is a sponsor of the event.

Barry Coulter

About the Author: Barry Coulter

Barry Coulter had been Editor of the Cranbrook Townsman since 1998.
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