Provincial homeless strategy sought

A provincial government strategy on eliminating poverty would be welcomed by a Central Alberta organization that sees how much work is devoted to helping low-income residents in the region.

A provincial government strategy on eliminating poverty would be welcomed by a Central Alberta organization that sees how much work is devoted to helping low-income residents in the region.

Heather Gardiner, executive director of the United Way of Central Alberta, said her organization supports a number of groups which work on homelessness, mental health and other poverty-related issues.

“We’re going to see some power behind this when we have a provincial strategy led by our government,” Gardiner said. “It needs co-ordinated visionary leadership to pull everything together . . . .”

Earlier this week, Public Interest Alberta and the Edmonton Social Planning Council released a report, We Must Do Better: It’s Time to Make Alberta Poverty Free.

It comes out of seven public forums held around Alberta in 2009, including one in Red Deer. About 400 people attended the sessions.

On the whole, they were troubled that despite living in one of the wealthiest places in the world, there are many people who live in poverty.

They expressed commitment to work with government to set up a comprehensive plan to reduce, prevent and ultimately eliminate poverty in Alberta.

Other countries and six Canadian provinces have set up poverty-reduction strategies.

The Ontario provincial government is one province that has a program that appears to be working well, Gardiner said.

It has set a goal of 25 per cent reduction in child poverty within five years.

“They have changed the child tax benefit so it’s $1,100 per child from $600 — that’s a significant boost in the pockets of people,” Gardiner said.

Gardiner believes Alberta’s strategy should fall under most ministries of government.

“Never before have we faced this kind of economic turmoil . . . we have to figure out a way to develop plans so when the economy recovers, we’re able to implement some good strategies early,” she said.

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