New Westminster is one of the communities selected to try out some poverty reduction strategies in British Columbia.
The Province of B.C. and the Union of B.C. Municipalities have identified seven communities to participate in a pilot project where poverty reduction strategies will target the unique needs of families struggling to get out of poverty in those communities. Surrey, Prince George, Cranbrook, Port Hardy, Stewart and Kamloops will also take part in the pilot project.
According to the Ministry of Children and Family Development, these communities were recommended by the Union of B.C. Municipalities to reflect a mix of metro, urban, rural and remote communities across B.C.
"Communities are different. Families are different. That is the essence of this project that promotes collaboration and sharing new, innovative ideas that recognize each community and each family has distinctive needs and resources," said Mary McNeil, minister of children and family development. "The goal is to provide low-income families with tailor-made springboards out of poverty by focusing on their strengths - not just their needs."
The ministry is appointing seven community poverty strategy consultants to forge partnerships with local governments, community organizations and local businesses. The consultants will coordinate and lead community teams in developing action plans that address the needs of families living in poverty.
John Stark, the city's senior social planner, said New Westminster was likely selected given its work in dealing with social issues related to families, such as the affordable housing strategy, child-care needs assessment and strategy, homelessness action strategy and living wage policy.
"Consultation will occur with low-income families, and a strategy will be developed," Stark said. "This strategy will document needs and gaps, develop actions to connect low-income families to supports, and make recommendations to better serve low-income families in the future."
According to the ministry, action plans with measurable tar-gets will be developed over the summer, and implementation is scheduled for September 2012.
The strategies will initially focus on families with children living in poverty.
They will be guided by feedback from town hall meetings, community discussions and conversations with low-income families and individuals vulnerable to poverty.
The ministry believes one of the keys to developing successful strategies is recognizing that each community has distinctive needs and resources. Community teams will take responsibility for the day-to-day implementation of the project.
"By customizing strategies to draw upon the assets in each community, this initiative will provide better support to families in need," Heath Slee, president of the Union of B.C. Municipalities, said in a press release. "UBCM has been pleased to work closely with province on this project, and we look forward to contributing more as part of the provincial steering committee."
The province will appoint a provincial steering committee to guide the project.
Once the project has been implemented in the first seven communities, it will be evaluated and expanded to additional communities. Future strategies will be based on the successes of participating pilot communities and innovative approaches used successfully in other jurisdictions.