Groups in­tend to elim­i­nate poverty

Sev­eral en­ti­ties come to­gether thanks to a 106-page re­port called Thrive, out­lin­ing the steps needed to meet the lofty goal

Medicine Hat News - - FRONT PAGE - COLLIN GALLANT cgal­lant@medicine­hat­news.com Twit­ter: CollinGal­lant

A broad coali­tion of groups in Medicine Hat — the city that has pur­port­edly ended home­less­ness — has set their sites on end­ing poverty.

The goal is pos­si­ble, ac­cord­ing to a pre­sen­ta­tion given Wed­nes­day at the Es­planade to so­cial ser­vice, school board and gov­ern­ment agency rep­re­sen­ta­tives, as well as in­di­vid­ual donors and poverty ad­vo­cates who took part in a sur­vey last sum­mer.

The re­sult­ing 106-page re­port out­lines prin­ci­ples, fo­cus ar­eas and tar­gets along with a route to co-or­di­nate ac­tion among hun­dreds of agen­cies and in­di­vid­u­als in Medicine Hat.

“Medicine Hat is a place that gets things done, and this is about im­ple­men­ta­tion,” said Alina Turner, au­thor of the re­port ‘Thrive: a strat­egy to end poverty and in­crease well­be­ing,’ which aims to end all forms of poverty by 2030.

“We need to talk about com­mon pri­or­i­ties, align that to the Thrive strate­gies and move for­ward col­lec­tively.”

She said Medicine Hat has done well is some ar­eas al­ready. The city has sup­ported af­ford­able hous­ing ini­tia­tives, paid out money to help win­ter­ize homes through HatS­mart, and a myr­iad of agen­cies work to help in­di­vid­u­als and fam­i­lies.

How­ever, one im­plicit goal is that, though there are many def­i­ni­tions of poverty, it’s best to avoid du­pli­ca­tion or ser­vices, max­i­miz­ing grants, and pro­vid­ing more com­plete cov­er­age of the com­mu­ni­ties in a host of ar­eas.

That in­cludes goals to­ward in­come se­cu­rity and busi­ness in­no­va­tion, af­ford­able hous­ing, food se­cu­rity, trans­porta­tion, health, ed­u­ca­tion.

A list of 17 tar­get goals in­cludes the num­ber of Hat­ters liv­ing be­low the poverty line be halved by 2025, then re­duced to none five years later.

As well, men­tal health-re­lated med­i­cal emer­gen­cies be re­duced over time, along with do­mes­tic abuse rates and food bank use.

Mean­while, the goal is to in­crease high school grad­u­a­tion and cer­tain mea­sure­ments for kinder­garten stu­dents.

That will how­ever, re­quire a num­ber of agen­cies to sub­mit in­ter­nal de­tails of their op­er­a­tions, fund­ing sources so greater co-or­di­na­tion can take place.

Blake Ped­er­sen, the for­mer MLA, was cred­ited with be­ing ac­tive early on in the process. He said since many groups all have the same start­ing point of want­ing to al­le­vi­ate poverty, the fo­cus should be on the end re­sult.

“It’s dif­fi­cult when you talk about think­ing dif­fer­ently,” said Ped­er­sen. “(It will in­volve) bring­ing those groups to the ta­ble to talk about what we’re do­ing, how we’re funded, what’s the ul­ti­mate goal. That will make sure in­di­vid­u­als are set up for suc­cess, rather than be­ing stuck in a sys­tem.”

First steps in­clude hir­ing an ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor, cre­at­ing a board (known as a “coun­cil of cham­pi­ons”) to ad­vo­cate for the poli­cies, an ad­min­is­tra­tive branch to co-or­di­nate groups and also cre­ate a sys­tem to track ac­tiv­i­ties and mea­sure re­sults.

The group will need to se­cure fund­ing of $385,000 for the first year as part of a $1.27-mil­lion, three-year bud­get.

In­cluded is a pro­posal for a $100,000 yearly so­cial en­ter­prise fund that would aid the creation of so­cially con­scious en­ter­prises, such as lo­cal lend­ing agen­cies.

Other groups may con­tinue what they are do­ing, but be asked to track re­sults or sub­mit data.

Ja­son Thun­berg, a pro­grams man­ager at Cana­dian Men­tal Health As­so­ci­a­tion, said he feels a col­lab­o­ra­tive spirit al­ready ex­ists in Medicine Hat.

“There’s a spirit that ‘if I can’t do it, I’ll find some­one who can’,” he said.

Among the prin­ci­ples out­lined are that all res­i­dents, not just those typ­i­cally thought of as poor, should have equal ac­cess to the ben­e­fits of so­ci­ety and well­be­ing. The ap­proach should be “per­son cen­tred and com­mu­nity driven,” fo­cused on preven­tion, with col­lec­tive ef­fort and in­no­va­tion needed to tackle an ar­ray of prob­lems.

Apart from ground­work to aid in­di­vid­u­als, par­tic­i­pat­ing agen­cies would also even­tu­ally co-or­di­nate ad­vo­cacy for lo­cal health and ed­u­ca­tion spend­ing, hous­ing grants and other gov­ern­men­tal ac­tion.

“It’s doable and I’m very ex­cited,” said Celina Sym­monds, co-ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Medicine Hat and Dis­trict Food Bank, and a city coun­cil­lor.

NEWS PHO­TOS EMMA BEN­NETT

Above: Robin Miller and Carrie Men­zies, both with Medicine Hat Com­mu­nity Hous­ing So­ci­ety, talk Wed­nes­day at the Es­planade dur­ing “Thrive” Medicine Hat and Re­gion Strat­egy to End Poverty and In­crease Well­be­ing.

Right: Alina Turner ad­dresses the crowd dur­ing a pre­sen­ta­tion on a new multi-group ini­tia­tive aimed at com­pletely end­ing poverty in Medicine Hat by 2030.

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