Plan 45,000 aims to re­duce poverty in Côte-des-Neiges– Notre-Dame-de-Grâce

Montreal Times - - News -

Poverty is a grim re­al­ity for too many peo­ple, dis­pro­por­tion­ately af­fect­ing groups on the mar­gins of so­ci­ety. It is gen­er­a­tional, fore­clos­ing on fu­ture op­por­tu­ni­ties for those as yet un­born.A lo­cal group aims to change all that for fam­i­lies and in­di­vid­u­als in the west-end bor­ough of Côte-des-Neiges–NotreDame-de-Grâce. The CDN-NDG Poverty Re­duc­tion Roundtable pre­sented a 5-year ac­tion plan to help al­le­vi­ate poverty at a re­cent bor­ough coun­cil meet­ing.The aim of 'Plan 45 000'is to re­duce poverty for 45,000 low-in­come res­i­dents in 5 key ar­eas in­clud­ing hous­ing, rev­enue & em­ploy­ment, trans­porta­tion, food se­cu­rity, and ac­cess to in­for­ma­tion and re­sources. CDNNDG's for­mer mayor Rus­sell Cope­man kick­started the process and Mayor Sue Mont­gomery re­newed the group's man­date to come up with an ef­fec­tive strat­egy to be im­ple­mented in a rel­a­tively short time frame. The re­port has been tabled and the new mayor has it in hand.

It's a tall or­der but James Hughes, Pres­i­dent of the Poverty Re­duc­tion Roundtable is op­ti­mistic this goal can be achieved. "There are a cou­ple of flag­ship rec­om­men­da­tions in the re­port," he says. Top of the list is clean, safe hous­ing. The group wants to see an in­spec­tion sys­tem put in place to en­sure the hous­ing stock is in con­form­ity with all norms. Right now, in­spec­tion is based on com­plaints, a dou­bleedged sword for ten­ants. "For rea­sons of fear of reprisals from land­lords they're not re­port­ing," he says.

An­other es­sen­tial com­po­nent con­cerns so­cial pro­cure­ment poli­cies.The city is a big buyer of goods and ser­vices so why not fa­vor sup­pli­ers who pay their own em­ploy­ees a liv­ing wage? "We're try­ing to take it to a more struc­tural, sys­temic level, " he says. Makes sense, the city can model good cor­po­rate be­hav­ior for in­sti­tu­tions on its ter­ri­tory. Hughes even en­vi­sions a time when a poverty re­duc­tion co­or­di­na­tor might pay an es­tab­lish­ment a visit and have a con­ver­sa­tion about the mat­ter. "It (the city/bor­ough) could be a role model for all of them." A co­or­di­na­tor could pick a hos­pi­tal on the ter­ri­tory and ask, "Would you con­sider this ap­proach?" This sug­ges­tion may raise a few eye­brows, but noth­ing ven­tured noth­ing gained. "We want to take it on the road," he says.They'd also like to take it up the lad­der. "Ob­vi­ously, the city can do more, the prov­ince can do more, the fed­eral gov­ern­ment can do more."

Trans­porta­tion is just about ev­ery­body's pet peeve th­ese days and for a host of rea­sons. How­ever, for in­di­vid­u­als liv­ing be­low the poverty line, the headache's not only about seem­ingly in­ter­minable road con­struc­tion, late buses, or over­crowded metro cars. Some­times a bus pass has to be sac­ri­ficed to buy gro­ceries or other ne­ces­si­ties. One rec­om­men­da­tion that stands out is a tar­iff-free zone for cer­tain bus routes at off-hours. This is prob­a­bly more re­al­is­tic than re­duc­ing fares or of­fer­ing free tran­sit for some users like se­niors. "It may not be ter­ri­bly ex­pen­sive," Hughes says. "It could be a pi­lot project," he says, adding the bor­ough has the po­lit­i­cal power to bring the STM on board.

An­other catch­phrase we hear to­day is "food se­cu­rity". What does this mean? The bor­ough spon­sors many ac­tiv­i­ties for kids. The lo­cal up­take would be for mu­nic­i­pal or­ga­ni­za­tions to pro­vide healthy food for all chil­dren with­out stig­ma­tiz­ing any­one. "We think this is sim­ple and pow­er­ful," Hughes says.The pro­gram would be uni­ver­sal. One ex­am­ple: at half-time, the soc­cer team could pro­vide or­anges for play­ers. Would this mean no cake or com­fort food on spe­cial oc­ca­sions? No, he says.The devil is in the de­tails. "We're not try­ing to change their prac­tices to­day.We're go­ing to re­ally take some time to think this through."

Ac­cess to in­for­ma­tion is an­other flash­point for many peo­ple re­gard­less of their in­come level. Lack of ser­vices in English has been a long­stand­ing bat­tle­ground for the An­glo­phone com­mu­nity. A dis­pro­por­tion­ate num­ber of res­i­dents in the bor­ough are im­mi­grants par­tic­u­larly in the Côte-desNeiges area where more than 100 lan­guages are spo­ken. In­for­ma­tion and ser­vices in the ma­ter­nal lan­guage of res­i­dents are piv­otal.A key rec­om­men­da­tion is to en­sure that info and ser­vices are rel­e­vant to the com­mu­nity and widely avail­able.This means of­fer­ing them in as many lan­guages as pos­si­ble. "Ac­cess to in­for­ma­tion ties the oth­ers (rec­om­men­da­tions) to­gether," Hughes says. "The city could do a lot bet­ter in terms of dis­sem­i­na­tion of in­for­ma­tion."

Some might won­der if the plan is per­haps too am­bi­tious given the 5year time­line. "A lot of peo­ple in so­cial ser­vices are en­gaged with this on a con­tin­ual ba­sis," Hughes says. "The man­date flows from the mayor in coun­cil.They have the ini­tia­tive to move it for­ward. It has been fully ap­proved." The CDN-NDG bor­ough is equipped with the re­sources and has "hun­dreds of part­ners on the ground." Ide­ally, the Roundtable would like to see a co­or­di­na­tor coun­cilor at the bor­ough coun­cil and an ad­vi­sory coun­cil to help steer the project plus an an­nual re­port. Ul­ti­mately, it's about, "putting the ma­chin­ery in place," to get the job done, he says.

James Hughes Pres­i­dent of CDN-NDG Poverty Re­duc­tion Roundtable

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