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Poverty reduction committee presents 22 recommendations to council

A homeless man at his camp spot at the foot of Third Avenue in Prince George. Bill Phillips photo

It was delayed somewhat by the COVID-19 pandemic, but the Select Committee on Poverty Reduction has tabled a list of 22 recommendations to city council.

The committee was struck in late-2019 following a jam-packed special city council meeting called to dealing with ongoing issues facing downtown such as homelessness, poverty, drug addiction, and mental health issues.

A community engagement process will begin February 11 with focus groups and an online survey. The committee will look for feedback from people who have experienced homelessness and/or poverty.

“When you look at the recommendations, those alone will not eradicate poverty within our community,” said Coun. Murry Krause. “But they are within the purview of local government … The City of Prince George cannot take on the whole challenge of poverty reduction, we will depend on the engagement and partnership of the provincial government to really make an impact.”

THE RECOMMENDATIONS

1 – Encourage changes to public attitudes around poverty, by

  • spreading the message on the City’s communication platforms (for example, social media)
  • funding more projects that reduce poverty stigma and discrimination (for example, by changing myPG community grant criteria) educating the public ahead of time about the reasons behind projects like supportive housing, in order to reduce opposition.

2 – Increase and improve services in specific areas to build social connections and get more people involved. Targets include:

  • low income neighbourhoods
  • groups like seniors, single parent families, children and youth.

3 –  When the city is collecting information on social well-being priorities, ask for input from people who have experience living in poverty.

4 – Advocate for provincial and federal government programs that help people buy an affordable first home.

5 – Continue to advocate for provincial and federal government support to develop affordable housing and housing services. Advocate for long term, consistent approaches (for example, homeowner incentive grants).

6 – Continue to advocate for Prince George to be included in the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) Annual Rental Market Survey. This would require CMHC to conduct an annual rental housing survey in Prince George.

7 – Complete a Housing Needs and Demand Study for Prince George in 2022. Include recommendations for many different types of housing, including:

  • emergency shelter and housing for the homeless
  • transitional supportive and assistive living
  • independent social housing
  • rent assistance
  • private market rentals
  • home ownership.

Note: The report will be prepared at the same time as the City’s Official

Community Plan (OCP) review and will use 2021 census data.

8 – Develop Revitalization Tax Exemption (RTE) programs that provide incentives for developing new rental housing and repairing existing rentals in low income neighbourhoods.

9 – Create more childcare spaces for infants, toddlers, and school-aged children.

10 – Create a baseline inventory of current community services and programs. Identify gaps and recommend improvements. Encourage agencies to contribute to the local BC 211 service (a

community and social services directory).

11 Make it easier for people to access the city’s leisure access program by:

  • removing or reducing financial requirements
  • bundling services (for example, the UPass Program which bundles a transit pass with access to city pools).

12 – Support development of a Navigation Hub. This is a “one-stop shop” model where people can get:

  • transit passes
  • food services
  • education, training, and employment support
  • coordinated access* for housing
  • other services.

A person will be available on-site to help people access these services (this is the “navigator”).

*A Coordinated Access System is part of the federally funded Reaching Home strategy. In this system, trained workers assess people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness to evaluate their level of need, assign priority level, and match them with appropriate

housing services.

13 – Respond to income insecurity and low wage poverty by:

  • advocating for a guaranteed annual income (similar to the Canada Emergency Response Benefit–CERB)
  • using tax incentives to encourage small business owners to pay their employees a living wage
  • advocating for competitive wages for workers, particularly Early Childhood Educators (ECE).

14 – Advocate to keep adult basic education and English language learning courses free.

15 – Advocate for ways to support people who want to improve their education or access employment opportunities. For example, advocate for wage subsidies for ECE workers and assistance programs for postsecondary students.

16 – Develop a Food Policy Council (and Food Charter) that will

  • include a variety of voices
  • support issues around community food security and insecurity
  • include participants who have experience living in poverty
  • focus on local solutions

17 Support opportunities for sustainable food sources including community gardening, food kitchens and programming focused on food supply and education.

*recommendation included in the Social Development Strategy Recommendations 2018

18 – Use City tools (policy, grants, zoning, etc.) to support further development of community gardens and access to healthy food.

*recommendation included in the Social Development Strategy Recommendations 2018

19 – Use food access mapping* to inform City’s decisions around development and projects around the City (i.e. provide incentives to develop projects close to food sources)

*A food access map would show the locations in Prince George where it is easier to get food.

20 – Ensure transit is affordable:

  • Consider making it free to ride the bus on statutory holidays.
  • Work with BC Transit to make fares affordable for those who need it. Advocate for BC Transit to make future fare systems affordable and accessible.
  • Work to improve the Transit Assistance Program (managed by the United Way).
  • Consider joining the All on Board Campaign, which advocates for affordable and accessible transit all across British Columbia.

21 Ensure transit use is accessible and safe:

  • Investigate adding more locations where people can buy bus passes, such as the PG Public Library and the Council of Seniors.
  • Encourage active transportation options by improving safety.
  • For example: well-maintained and accessible bike lanes, sidewalks, increased street lighting in bus area routes, additional safe indoor waiting areas o expansion of transit night service.
  • Advocate for expanding the handyDART services to include statutory holidays and a larger service area.

22 – Increase transit education and information: Provide education sessions with an incentive such as a free transit day pass. Topics could be:

  • how to ride the bus
  • what transit services are available
  • how to navigate the system.*

*Increase signage at bus stops and improve information provided for bus schedules (for example, make them easy and simple to understand, make print copies of the schedule more readily available).


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