Thunder Bay Poverty Reduction Strategy

Poverty Reduction Strategy

“We Must Work Together for a Better Thunder Bay for All”

October 21, 2013 – A year in the making, the Community Action Strategy to Reduce Poverty – “Building a Better Thunder Bay for All” – was presented to City Council this evening by a community-based Steering Committee.

The partnership project has been led by the Lakehead Social Planning Council and Poverty Free Thunder Bay with funding from the District of Thunder Bay Social Services Administration Board and the City of Thunder Bay, consistent with the City’s 2011-2014 Strategic Plan (action 5.2a). The objective was to develop a community-specific strategy including a clear articulation of community specific recommendations for immediate-, medium- and long-term community poverty reduction.

The Strategy is focused on four pillars as priorities for effort: housing; income and community economic development; infrastructure; inclusion and engagement. Under these pillars, there are 23 commitments, or recommendations, with specific actions to further each one.

“Poverty diminishes our community,” said Councillor Paul Pugh, Chair of the Steering Committee, reflecting on statistics that show approximately 15,100 individuals in Thunder Bay live in poverty. “Beyond those directly living in poverty, it touches all aspects of society – the economy, housing, social structure, youth, elderly and future generations.”

“We hope that Building a Better Thunder Bay for All will be endorsed by Council and embraced by the community,” he added. “Poverty reduction is an endeavour we must undertake together.”

The following organizations are represented on the Steering Committee that developed the Strategy through extensive community consultation:
  • Age Friendly Thunder Bay
  • City of Thunder Bay
  • Creighton Youth Services
  • District of Thunder Bay Social Services Administration Board
  • Kinna-Aweya Legal Clinic
  • Lakehead Social Planning Council
  • Northwestern Ontario Women’s Centre
  • Ontario Native Women’s Association
  • Our Kids Count
  • Poverty Free Thunder Bay
  • Thunder Bay Accessibility Advisory Committee
  • Thunder Bay and District Injured Workers Support Group
  • Thunder Bay and District Labour Council
  • Thunder Bay Chamber of Commerce
  • Thunder Bay Crime Prevention Council
  • Thunder Bay Indian Friendship Centre
  • Thunder Bay Youth Strategy
  • Urban Aboriginal Strategy
  • United Way of Thunder Bay

Some 440 people were involved through interviews with individuals from various sectors, focus groups with people with lived experience, an Open House, Community Forum, and working groups.

A Panel will be established to guide implementation of the Strategy and an Annual Report Card will be issued.

There is no single area of life that is not impacted for those living on low or fixed incomes. A lack of affordable housing, insufficient social assistance rates, exclusion and stigma, jobs that do not pay a living wage, and increased food bank usage: these are only some of the poverty-related issues that many residents of Thunder Bay face on a day-to-day basis. But poverty also has broader social consequences and impacts on society. Inequality results in worse social and health outcomes for all Canadians, not just the most marginalized. To highlight just one seemingly counter-intuitive point – poverty is expensive. An August 2011 report published by the National Council of Welfare found that the cost of raising everyone up just over the poverty line was $12.3 billion, yet “the total cost of poverty [in 2007] was double or more using the most cautious estimates.”

With these considerations in mind, and in the absence of a Canada-wide strategy, many municipalities have begun taking steps to address inequality in their communities. In Thunder Bay, the development of a Poverty Reduction Strategy represents one of the goals of the City’s 2011-2014 strategic plan, seeking to “respond community needs to support a high quality of life for all residents.” To these ends, the City has partnered with the Lakehead Social Planning Council, the District Social Services Administration Board, and the Poverty Free Thunder Bay group – along with an 18-member steering committee composed of various agencies – to create a community-specific strategy. The steering committee, which is to lead the process of developing the strategy, is chaired by City Councillor Paul Pugh and the project coordinator is Saku Pinta.

The strategy is to include a clear articulation of community specific recommendations for immediate, medium, and long-term community poverty reduction. Currently, the initiative is in the data collection stage. Input is being gathered through key informant interviews, focus groups, surveys, and with reference to current statistics and previous studies. A public open-house at Victoriaville Mall Village Green on February 12th from 12pm to 6pm – also featuring rights workshops on the topics of social assistance and Employment Insurance – will offer an excellent opportunity for the community to provide input into the strategy. A community forum on the following day will bring stakeholders together for the purpose of discussing strategies and ideas that can enhance the quality of life of people living on low income.

The final report is slated for completion by the fall of 2013. Importantly, the report will help to shape and inform the City’s policy in the area of poverty reduction.
For more information please contact Saku Pinta at (807) 624-1725
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