The Regional District of Nanaimo has been approved for a grant to help with the development of a poverty reduction strategy for the region.
The B.C. Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction announced this week that the RDN and partner local governments are receiving $125,000 through the province’s Together B.C. poverty reduction strategy.
The RDN – working with its member municipalities as well as Islands Trust – is one of 29 B.C. communities sharing $1.4 million. The money is to be used to compile data, create an engagement strategy and draft a regional poverty reduction strategy.
The RDN board made the decision this past winter to pursue the grant, specifying at the time that it wished to focus its strategy around families, youth and children, and social supports.
Some directors, including Bob Rogers from Nanoose Bay and Adam Fras from Parksville, expressed reservations that the initiative could lead the region toward funding social programs outside its jurisdiction. Nanaimo director Erin Hemmens, however, said the RDN wasn’t being asked to do anything beyond gaining a better understanding of its communities, and directors including Vanessa Craig of Gabriola Island agreed.
“I don’t look at this as locking us into providing, necessarily, social services down the road, but I think it would give us a much better picture of some of the needs and diversity of the area,” Craig said.
RDN general manager of strategic and community development Geoff Garbutt told directors at the time that if the region’s grant is approved, the next steps would be to seek guidance from agencies in the social sector and then come back to the board with terms of reference for a study.
“We are funding a made-in-Nanaimo response plan, so that people and families can get the help they need,” said Sheila Malcolmson, Nanaimo MLA, in a press release, adding that provincial rates of poverty are on the decline.
Nanaimo-North Cowichan MLA Doug Routley said there is no “one-size-fits-all plan when it come to tackling poverty,” which is why the province is working with local governments and community organizations.
Shane Simpson, minister of social development and poverty reduction, had a similar take, suggesting that the funding allows local governments to create “on-the-ground solutions for poverty that are tailored to the needs of their communities.”