City to seek input on reducing poverty next month

The City of Prince George will be seeking public input on what it can do to combat poverty in the city next month.

On Monday, the city's Select Committee on Poverty Reduction presented its 22 preliminary recommendations on what the city can do to reduce the impacts of poverty. Starting on Feb. 11, the committee will be seeking public input – particularly from people living in poverty or who have experienced poverty – on those recommendations, said Sarah Brown, city supervisor of community wellbeing and partnerships.

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While some of the recommendations are focused on what the city can do within its own operations, others are focused on advocating for additional supports from the provincial and federal governments, Coun. Murry Krause said. Krause was the chairperson of the select committee, and represented city council on the committee along with Coun. Cori Ramsay.

"The City of Prince George can't take on the whole challenge of poverty reduction alone,"  Krause said.

In addition to an online survey, running Feb. 11 to March 19, the community engagement process will include efforts to engage with people currently accessing shelters in the city or who otherwise have barriers to participating in an online survey, Brown said.

More then 50 stakeholder groups in the city have agreed to participate in the process, she said. Once that feedback is gathered the committee will review the feedback, and integrate it into its final report to city council in April or May, Brown said.

The committee's recommendations were, in part, based on a UNBC study looking at poverty in the city,

The final report will include estimated costs of implementing the recommendations, acting city manager Walter Babicz added.

The committee's 22 preliminary recommendations include:

1) Encourage changes to public attitudes around poverty.

2) Increase and improve services in specific areas (such as low-income neighbourhoods).

3) Include input from people who experienced living in poverty when the city collects information on social wellbeing priorities.

4) Advocate for more provincial and federal government programs to help people buy affordable housing.

5) Continue to advocate for additional provincial and federal supports for affordable housing.

6) Continue to advocate for Prince George to be included in the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation's Annual Rental Market Survey.

7) Complete a housing demands and needs study in the city.

8) Develop revitalization tax exemption programs to support new rental housing projects and repairs to existing rental housing in low-income neighbourhoods.

9) Create more childcare spaces for infants, toddlers, and school-age children.

10) Create an inventory of current community services and programs.

11) Make it easier for people to access the city's Leisure Access Program.

12) Support the development of a "Navigation Hub' – a one-stop location where people can access transit passes, food services, education and training support, housing services and other supports

13) Advocating for government guaranteed annual income programs, use tax incentives to encourage businesses to pay employees a living wage, and advocate for competitive wages for workers.

14) Advocate to keep adult basic education and English programs free.

15) Advocate for supports for people looking to upgrade their education.

16) Develop a Food Policy Council to work on food insecurity issues in the community.

17) Support sustainable food sources like community gardens, food kitchens, etc.

18) Use city policy to further development of community gardens and access to healthy food.

19) Use food access mapping to inform policy decisions around development and projects.

20) Reduce costs for public transit users.

21) Ensure public transit is accessible and safe.

22) Increase public transit education and information.

Funding for the public consultation process was provided by a provincial grant, Brown said.

"(There is) so much work to do on a project that is so titanic," Coun. Garth Frizzell said.

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