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North Shore councils targeting poverty in new plan

Final report will include lived experiences and recommendations
jill lawlor feed the need
Jill Lawlor, the District of West Vancouver's senior services and community wellness manager, helps with packing of meals for seniors in the community, in September 2020.

The three North Shore municipalities are joining forces on a plan to tackle local poverty.

The province announced last week that the District of North Vancouver, District West Vancouver and City of North Vancouver will receive $75,000 under Union of B.C. Municipalities Poverty Reduction Planning and Action Program.

“Everyone’s experience of poverty is unique, just as every community’s needs are unique,” said Susie Chant, NDP MLA for North Vancouver-Seymour. “This funding ensures that local governments can create plans specific to their communities, so we can recover and rebuild in a way that will ensure everyone has the opportunity to succeed.”

The project will be led by the District of West Vancouver.

“There's a reputation that all of West Vancouver residents are affluent, and maybe a reputation that many North Shore residents are affluent. It’s not the case,” said Arleta Beckett, community services manager for the district. “We have found that, especially with COVID, there is poverty and it often goes unseen.”

West Van saw a large uptake of its shower program made available to people experiencing homelessness after the pandemic shuttered community centres. Every week, the municipality’s Feed the Need program has been distributing weekly 710 meals to 240 seniors who might otherwise be going without, and they’ve seen a high demand for their grocery card program offered to youth under the Reaching Home grant.

“We have stories about young people whose parents have lost their lost their job during the pandemic,” she said. “They're struggling to make their rent and what they're not able to do is pay rent and provide food.”

In the next week or so, the West Van will hire a consultant who will speak with service organizations like the Harvest Project, Hollyburn Family Services and the Lookout Emergency Shelter to help quantify the need.

“The plan we'll have will definitely have some stories of people's lived experience,” Beckett said. “I think that's going to be one of the most important parts of the plan, because it'll tell us exactly what's going on.”

Beyond that, it should also result in a series of recommendations that are within the municipalities’ control, but also some for the non-profits and senior levels of government as well.

“There’s a role for everybody in this,” Beckett said. “It might change the way in which we work together.”

The three North Shore governments are also already collaborating on a homelessness action initiative.