Engagement from the Central Okanagan Poverty and Wellness Strategy (COPAWS) has found many residents need support with managing the costs of daily living such as housing, transportation, food, health, and recreation.
It also found the rising cost of living is putting more and more pressure on budgets, and more widely available supports are needed.
Urban Matters presented the Regional District Central Okanagan (RDCO) board with an update at its April 14 meeting, on findings from public and stakeholder consultation. The work Urban Matters does looks at supporting communities and developing complex strategies to address social issues. COPAWS is being developed to provide a coordinated and shared community action strategy for poverty reduction in the Central Okanagan.
“The public survey respondents show that people experiencing poverty are more likely to also be experiencing helplessness and a lack of certainty about their future,” said Jen Casorso, project lead with Urban Matters. “People with a disability are disproportionately represented and more likely to have increased impacts of poverty.”
Feedback was sought from people with lived and living experiences, Ki-Low-Na Friendship Society, Métis Nation BC, Métis Community Services, Okanagan Indian Band, Westbank First Nation, and Okanagan Nation Alliance.
The findings noted that a consistent theme throughout the engagement was the lack of support for income assistance or housing options for diverse populations. Casorso added that the Indigenous experience of poverty is coloured by the impacts of colonialism, capacity challenges, entrenched racism and stigma.
“All participants in the Indigenous engagement acknowledged that these systems have to be addressed for meaningful change to take place.”
Consultations also found that seniors and elders are at risk as physical needs change and they may not be able to maintain their own housing, As well, they were unable to afford required adaptations to their housing. Priority areas identified during engagement include transportation, housing, child development and care, and youth poverty and wellness.
Solutions identified by participants included creating more opportunities for people to come together, providing a variety of services in a central location, and creating and increasing awareness of food programs within communities.
In 2020, the RDCO partnered with Kelowna, West Kelowna, Lake Country, and Peachland in obtaining a $149,000 grant from the Union of BC Municipalities for the development of the strategy. The final report will be presented to the RDCO and member municipalities in May.