The CommUNITY Together to End Poverty Hw-nuts’-ulwum (As One) project is releasing a Summary of Public Engagement that identifies 10 common themes related to poverty that have come out of a series of opportunities to hear from the public about the impacts of poverty experienced by residents of Ladysmith and Stz’uminus.
The ten priority themes that emerged, not prioritized in any particular order, are Public Transportation, Food Security, Addressing Stigma, Racism and Discrimination, Access to Education and Employment Options, Adequate Income Supports and the Means to Make Ends Meet, Affordable Housing and Adequate Living Conditions, Access to Mental Health and Addiction Services, Mental Discomfort and Stress, Access to Health Care Services, and Physical Health & Wellness.
“Ladysmith was once a small town but it’s growing and we don’t have all the services we need here in town. For example, if a person needs specialized medical care or equipment, it means a trip to Duncan or Nanaimo for appointments. This may be an inconvenience if you have a car and money for gas, but if you live on a fixed income and have to rely on limited public transportation to get to those appointments it may result in not getting the care that you need,” said Alexis Stuart, project working group member.
Statistics show that in Cowichan Valley North — which includes Ladysmith and Stz’uminus — 2,375 adults (11.3 percent of the population), 2,438 seniors (11.6%) and 3,132 children and youth (14.9%) are low income and struggle to make ends meet.
When asked what contributes to a healthy and happy life, people in Ladysmith and Stz’uminus unanimously shared that spending time with family and friends, feeling connected to the community and having access to basic amenities were most important.
Many people expressed concerns about the impact that poverty and increasing disparity in their community are having, including creating division and separation and an erosion of trust between neighbours. Others expressed concerns about NIMBYism (a “not in my backyard” attitude) and a lack of compassion, which often stems from fear and lack of understanding.
Still, others are concerned about increasing homelessness and strains on community policing or service organizations. Many expressed concerns about the financial pressure on all levels of government to address these complex societal challenges.
Overall, people expressed a commitment to find ways as a community to support each other, listen to the voices of those with lived experience that isn’t always heard and work together to achieve a happier and healthier community.
A summary of the public engagement is available online. Ladysmith and Stz’uminus residents have the opportunity to review the summary report and give their feedback about the findings. Feedback can be shared at: communitytogethertoendpoverty.ca/summary.
Once feedback is received it will be compiled into a finalized plan to address poverty in Ladysmith and Stz’uminus. The plan, complete with actions and recommendations will be completed by the end of July 2021.