The City of Port Alberni took a step towards reducing poverty in the region by endorsing the Alberni Clayoquot Working Together to Reduce Poverty Protocol Agreement on Monday.
Marcie Dewitt, of the Alberni Clayoquot Health Network, was present in council chambers during Monday’s council meeting to discuss the protocol agreement.
“One of the things that has come to light recently in the work that we’ve been doing is that poverty reduction is one of the lynchpins of creating healthy communities in order to address any sort of health inequities,” she said on Monday. “Having a good and realistic plan to address poverty in our community is the basis of creating some healthy outcomes.”
The Alberni Clayoquot Health Network held a workshop in May 2016 where they created a “Theory of Change,” working with the community to identify outcomes that would assist the network in reducing poverty in the region.
This workshop, which involved 50 representatives from throughout the region, identified five outcomes: housing, decreasing the number of hungry children, increasing the awareness of poverty issues and impacts in the ACRD, addressing mental health and addictions, and addressing youth homelessness. Within those five outcomes were four specific themes: service integration and collaboration, program level interventions, public policy and education.
“Since that time we’ve been working with local organizations to fill in additional information around that framework, and then presenting that back to local decision makers in order to gain feedback in terms of next steps,” said Dewitt.
The network is now going forward with two different streams. The first is working with organizations in communities with this Theory of Change and looking at further action planning and implementation. The second is the political realm, with a poverty protocol that was signed by MP Gord Johns and MLA Scott Fraser on April 2.
“We’ve committed to moving forward this framework, familiarizing stakeholders with the Theory of Change and its concepts, engaging the experts in our communities,” said Dewitt. “Ensuring that we can have some movement on identified opportunities where there’s not already an organization that is taking action there, and ongoing support to keep the conversation at the forefront.”
Dewitt added that they are seeking from local communities endorsements for the poverty protocol in order to increase leadership involvement and commitment, to further engage communities, and to ensure that the process is reflective of the region.
“In the past, we’ve done a lot of stimulating the economy and working around economic development, saying that’s what’s going to help with poverty,” said Dewitt. “But research shows that things like housing, food security, access to health services have a greater impact on the reduction of poverty than does just economic stimulation in communities.”
She added, “What we’re asking local leaders to do is engage with us in these four very basic and high level components of the protocol, assisting to resource and support the work.”
Council agreed to prepare a letter of endorsement to support the protocol.