Results of a recent poverty awareness study will be used to develop a Red Deer poverty reduction strategy.
“This is the first step,” said Dianna Souveny, a community facilitator with City of Red Deer’s social planning department, after results were released on Monday.
Central Alberta Poverty Reduction Alliance, which was involved in the poverty awareness study, will be working with the Vibrant Red Deer Needs Assessment Advisory Council on a poverty reduction and prevention strategy.
By the end of June, the council will be making recommendations on where to go next and what the needs assessment should look like.
Focus groups and one-on-one interviews are expected to take place in the fall. By late 2019, the needs assessment is expected to be complete.
It will provide a foundation for the proposed poverty reduction and prevention strategy.
The city has provided some funding but it is not a city initiative, she said.
Souveny said the goal is to create a strategy in which the community feels it can get involved and has an impact in reducing poverty.
“It’s not all about relying on the government to make those changes,” she said.
Many in the community do not have a clear picture of poverty in their midst as shown by the work done with Red Deer College students.
“One of things we were kind of surprised by was many students think it’s just the homeless people, and that’s our only population living in poverty,” said Souveny.
However, students themselves are often living in poverty, even though they don’t see themselves that way.
“It’s that awareness of what does living below the poverty line, what does living on low-income look like.
“We need to be aware that we have poverty across all aspects.”
The Poverty Reduction Strategy will be aimed at finding ways to prevent people from falling into poverty and how to help the poor get out of poverty.
Melissa Hillman, who recently graduated from Red Deer College’s psychology program, did much of the work on the poverty awareness survey and presented the findings.
It drew on responses from 526 community members, divided into community members 61 per cent of respondents), those with lived poverty experience (17 per cent) and service providers (13 per cent). Respondents could go online and other responses were gathered at a meeting at the Mustard Seed as well as individual meetings.
Hillman believes the survey has provided valuable information that can be used to develop the needs assessment.
“Poverty is in all communities. It’s a huge issue and I think a lot of people are not aware how big an issue it actually is.
“That’s a big part of why we did the survey.”
Survey results show there is little disagreement in the community that poverty is a problem. Across the three categories, 93 to 95 per cent of disagreed with the statement poverty is not a problem.
Almost all agreed — 93 to 98 per cent — that poverty can affect anyone in their lifetime, and well over 90 per cent agreed a person can work full-time and still live in poverty.
When asked if basic needs are met for all Red Deer residents, only one in five of those with experience with poverty and community members agreed or strongly agreed. Only one in 10 service providers agreed. Whether affordable housing was available saw four out of 10 community members agreeing it was. But only about 24 per cent of those who experienced poverty and service providers felt that way.