Burnaby residents offer feedback on poverty strategy
Tereza Verenca / Burnaby Now
February 23, 2018 07:48 AM
Photograph By iStock
Burnaby residents were given an opportunity recently to discuss what B.C.’s first poverty reduction strategy should look like.
The province held a roundtable at the Firefighters Banquet and Conference Centre on Jan. 29, one of 20-plus meetings taking place across B.C. to gather feedback.
“The state of poverty is actually quite desperate and has been getting worse for a long time,” said Janet Routledge, Burnaby North MLA, of what she heard during the meeting. “People had some really good ideas about what the solutions are. This was really important to me as an MLA because this is what the point of the consultation is, to hear the real stories from the frontline.”
B.C. has the highest poverty rate in Canada, with 678,000 British Columbians living in poverty, according to a government press release. Meanwhile, 118,000 of B.C.’s poor are children in low-income families and about 64,000 are seniors. Approximately 40 per cent of those living in poverty are low-income, working adults.
According to the latest homeless count, held last year, Burnaby saw a 19 per cent jump in its homeless population when compared to 2014. Volunteers counted 69 homeless people on March 8, up from 58.
The 24-hour snapshot showed that 49 of the 69 were adults who were unsheltered. That means they were either couch surfing or living outside, including in alleys, doorways, parkades, parks and in cars. The other 20 sheltered individuals were staying at an extreme weather shelter, a transition house or a safe house. (Burnaby does not have a permanent homeless shelter.)
“We believe poverty is so multi-faceted and so long-term that one does need an overarching strategy that looks at all of the causes of poverty and the solutions and in an integrated way. You need goals and you need timetables and you need benchmarks, and that’s what we’re going to offer,” Routledge said.
The MLA added she anticipates an announcement on modular housing for the city “very shortly.”
The housing initiative is part of the B.C. government’s promise to build 2,000 homes over two years throughout the province. The units will have 24/7 staffing and will support people who are homeless.
Didn’t attend the meeting? You can submit feedback online at tinyurl.com/BBYForm until the end of March.