VIABLE Program started in May 2013 in response to the Government of Alberta’s “Social Policy Framework”, a roadmap for transformational change, with a Poverty Reduction Strategy as one of the eight priority initiatives. Calgary, Lethbridge, Medicine Hat, and Calgary have all implemented their own strategies in recent years to assist the people in their cities living in low-income.
- Income statistics:
- This chart is from information from the 2006 stats Canada census.
- Income stats were not available for Milo, Lomond, and Arrowwood.
- This is 20% sample data.
- Unfortunately, the 2011 census didn’t include income for Vulcan County.
- So, the information that we do have is for residents of Carmangay, Champion, the town, and the county.
- As you can see, 40% of the population 15 years and over in these areas earned less than $20,000 in 2005.
- The low-income cut-off rate for that time period was $18,246.
- The recession and increase in cost of living over the last nine years would most likely make a sizable spike in these numbers as well.
- County Questionnaire:
- We sent out a Sustainable Living questionnaire to 560 Vulcan County residents in the summer of 2013.
- We got back 125, a 22% response.
- I have included the highest chosen answers here.
- Please note that the answers are people’s opinions regarding poverty from people living in poverty, and people who have never lived in poverty.
- Note unemployed as the number one cause of people living in low-income situations. I don’t know what the actual number is. If anyone has that information, I would love to know what it is.
- Issues facing people living in low-income was the next question.
- Note that social and medical issues are the top answers.
- The third question asked what can be done for people, with skills training and job creation at the top.
- Programming Questionnaire:
- This questionnaire was completed during the Christmas season for Food Bank hampers.
- The questions asked were regarding what programs the clients would be interested in registering for if and when we could offer them.
- Note the high percentage of medical and financial programs the clients chose.
- Conversation Café:
- In October of 2013, we facilitated a Conversation Café on poverty.
- There were 19 participants from the County, which I thought was a great turnout.
- This is a synopsis of the answers we received on questions regarding our community.
- Most of us don’t realize how much of an affect poverty has on our communities.
- Several people mentioned that the reason was that they didn’t “see” it – such as homeless people on the streets or people begging for money.
- That’s because the people who are struggling in our community are hiding in plain sight.
- They may not recognize them as sitting at the same table as them because they are not wearing rags or holding their hand out for help. They are struggling silently. In a small community where most people know each other, you don’t want strangers and especially the people you know to know you are poor, as there is a stigma that goes along with it.
- There are many contributing factors to low-income.
- Some are generational (growing up in poverty) and some are circumstantial (death of a spouse, illness-unable to work with no insurance, no friends or family to help you, family violence, etc.).
- These are the strategies that people felt could help to prevent, reduce or alleviate poverty in our community.
- From the information that was collected and our own observations, these are the areas that we have targeted to research and implement strategies in to help prevent, alleviate, and reduce poverty in our County in partnerships with other agencies, government, community organizations, businesses, school districts, and health care services.
- We are in the process of researching funding opportunities through government grants, community organizations, and private businesses.
STRATEGIES IMPLEMENTED & DEVELOPING:
- So far, we have implemented some financial literacy projects.
- The free basic income tax returns project has been very popular and beneficial to 45-70 people a year so far. They were very happy to be able to get their taxes done for free.
- We are looking at sites for our Community Garden in Vulcan. We would like to have a site in town as opposed to on the outskirts. The Town of Vulcan will lease us a parcel of Town land for free, and hook up a waterline.
- The objectives of the Community Garden is to provide more fresh produce for the Food Bank, an opportunity for residents to grow their own organic vegetables, provide social inclusion and community engagement, and a hands-on teaching tool to youth, children, and new gardeners.
- We are also investigating a community kitchen at the Youth Centre and at the new FCSS & Food Bank location at the old firehall in Vulcan.
- With the high response of Food Bank clients requesting dental and vision care, we are investigating the possibility of the mobile dental bus to come to Vulcan in the summer.
- In an effort to provide information and access to resources to everyone in our County, FCSS is coordinating Community Resource Fairs in the villages this year.