‘Troubling signs of poverty’ prompts new Delta community group

Residents with lived experience of poverty will have the opportunity to share their opinions

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By Hannah Rowena Mondiwa

The City of Delta is working to create a more equitable community with the recent formation of a citizen’s group aiming to improve the lives of vulnerable residents. A presentation on Delta’s poverty reduction strategy and action plan was given by LevelUp Planning and Consulting at the May 16, 2022 council meeting. The action plan was passed unanimously by the council.

“Certainly, we have a lot of work to do. We can’t do the work unless we know what the problems are, and we’re starting to get to that point now,” said Delta Mayor George Harvie about the action plan.

At the same meeting, former Coun. Jeannie Kanakos said: “I’ve been a resident of North Delta for a long time and I think really over the last five years I’ve seen an increase in very troubling signs of poverty here.” In 2019, the B.C. government released the first annual report of TogetherBC, the province’s poverty reduction strategy, which stated that B.C.’s poverty rate was 8.9 per cent the previous year.

Although Delta’s population earns more than the provincial average, the municipality’s poverty rate hovers at around 10 per cent, according to city stats.

“Unfortunately, racialized and indigenous communities are more affected by poverty as well. So as these communities grow, it’s important that we’re getting their input into what it’s like in Delta, specifically for them to live, or trying to live and thrive,” said Alex Atkinson, Delta’s poverty reduction and homelessness coordinator.

Delta Coun. Dylan Kruger says poverty in Delta manifests itself differently than in other cities.

“Poverty and housing struggles come in different forms in communities like Delta. I think we’re just better at recognizing that now than we used to be,” said Kruger. “And you know, you’ve got to look at Delta through a different lens than cities like Vancouver.”

Delta does not have a large population of unsheltered homeless people sleeping on the streets, Krueger said. “But we do have a lot of people in precarious housing situations, people living on couches couch-surfing, people living in their cars, people who might be month to month on their rent, or they’re under-housed, they’ve got a big family, but they’re living in a space that’s too small for them.”

The importance of the Community Voices Table

Atkinson said this initiative to reduce poverty in Delta is a crucial one.

“It’s always been complex, it’s becoming more complex. And so for something that’s really important, it’s becoming more common practice to look at it holistically,” Atkinson said.

The Delta community voices table is made up of eight Delta residents who all have lived experience with poverty. These residents will share their experiences of accessing services in Delta while also facing financial difficulties and other challenges.

Atkinson says it was important that the members of the group had lived experiences of poverty.

“One really big function of the table is to act as consultants, and to make sure that decisions being made are involving folks who are impacted by those decisions,” said Atkinson. “They know what works, they know what doesn’t work. They have nuances, what it feels like, they can speak to the mental health challenges that come along with it, food insecurity.”

It is hoped that the community voices table will give residents the chance not only to share their opinions, but also to connect with community service providers, who will use the table’s opinions to create new programs or improve existing ones.

Kruger said: “I hope that we are going to the point where we learn, again, delve in a place that is welcoming to everyone, and then embraces people who are in poverty, and we tell people as their leaders that they have a place here and they belong in our community.”

The Delta community voices table’s first meeting was Sunday, Feb. 26, and meetings are planned for the rest of the year.

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