A group of Nelson citizens thinks the extensive talk over the past few years about poverty and homelessness has done a good job of raising awareness. But they say poverty is still increasing and it’s time to start strategizing — with a positive spin.
Hence the project’s name: Nelson At Its Best. Organizer Helen Lutz calls this a “different marketing angle,” and she hopes to have a draft poverty reduction strategy by the end of May.
“We know from research across the country,” says Lutz, “that communities that take the time to develop a strategy are more likely to have success.”
The project’s steering committee has members from the City of Nelson, Columbia Basin Trust, Nelson Business Association, Interior Health Authority, Kootenay Career Development Society, Kootenay Coop Store, Nelson CARES, ANKORS, Nelson Chamber of Commerce, Nelson Committee on Homelessness, Nelson Community Services Centre, School District 8, and the Social Planning Action Network.
In other words, says Lutz, “it’s more than the usual people,” and she adds it’s not the steering committee that will develop the strategy, but the community as a whole.
“I have trained over 30 different people to host community conversations,” she says. “These will gather the thoughts and ideas and recommendations that all residents would have toward this strategy. So it is community driven.”
Lutz says there have been about ten conversations so far, ranging from a get-together at someone’s house to a downtown meeting over coffee to a workplace meeting at lunchtime. There will also be a public conversation on April 15 at the Vienna Café.
All gathered info will be brought back to the steering committee, which will then distil it into themes and present it at a Prosperity Summit to be held May 21.
The draft strategy will be available by the end of May, says Lutz, but “for reducing poverty we are looking at a ten-year window.”
Lutz presented this concept to Nelson city council this month and asked the mayor to volunteer to be part of a group of community champions for the initiative. Deb Kozak immediately agreed.
Lutz’s presentation to council addressed the question “What would Nelson At Its Best look like?” with a series of indicators including better health, safe and affordable housing, no people going hungry, healthy children, stronger local businesses, more productive workforce, less crime, and educated residents.
The presentation also gave statistics about poverty in Nelson and information about who is most at risk in the city.
So far Nelson at its Best has had short-term funding from the Columbia Basin Trust and BC Healthy Communities.