I am excited to be joining the Vibrant Communities Team as Manager of Cities Reducing Poverty. As I am being introduced to our membership, I can’t help but be impressed with the dedicated collaborations happening in communities all over Canada. We are at a time where poverty is finally being recognized by a broader sector as a primary determinant of health and predictor of quality of life.
Coming to Tamarack from a community agency working in the trenches of poverty, we can think that poverty only exists there - it is in all of our communities. For many whose eyes are open, it is transparent, but for others it may be more opaque. I experienced first hand the impact of being disconnected from resources, lack of income, inadequate housing, families struggling to ensure their children were fed and clothed properly for all seasons, let alone thriving. It can be a full-time job merely navigating the system to get by when one doesn’t have enough money to live on. We tend to work in silos and lose sight of the value of working together to solve a problem. We are a country wealthy enough to ensure everyone’s basic needs, at a bare minimum, are met. Still, what are the barriers and drivers in place from a policy, system and people perspective? Where does accountability lie and for whom?
We have made some headway, for example, in embedding healthy public policy everywhere. A key highlight for this year includes the 2018 release of Canada's First Poverty Reduction Strategy. Though how this will turn into tangible action on reducing poverty in the short to long term for individuals and families across the country is yet to be clear. Alongside, the recent National Housing Strategy includes investment for the most marginalized and disadvantaged in our population; the announcement of expanding affordable childcare and early learning opportunities is a win; and there is anticipation that a National Food Policy will prioritize food security for all. But is it enough?
How can we strengthen our efforts? Sharing of good practice and using evidence to inform our work, but not waiting for that evidence to build; innovation is around us. Solutions can be found in communities across the country; let them be the voice that brings all sectors together and all of society to account. Increasing advocacy and utilizing the strengths of community is necessary. But community engagement should not translate to community responsibility. Let’s focus beyond ameliorative solutions to transformative change.
There is momentum and it's a timely opportunity to engage with stakeholders and scale up efforts. I look forward to contributing and connecting our work, to building relationships with leaders and champions, to play both a supportive and influential role in moving the needle on poverty.