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
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.
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.