Poverty Compass to focus on city planning, programming

The Brandon Neighbourhood Renewal Corporation has released a detailed report analyzing what living in poverty looks like in Brandon.

Titled Brandon Poverty Compass, the document was created to provide stakeholders and community service providers in the city with statistics to better streamline the planning and implementation of programming for people living with financial deficiencies.  Using statistics garnered from various first-hand sources alongside Statistics Canada and Economic Development Brandon, the guide seeks to give an image of what poverty looks like in the city.

article continues below

“It is based on the work we completed in a partnership with the university (of Brandon) to develop a framework on what a poverty report would look like for a community like ours,” said Carly Gasparini, general manager of the BNRC. “We received funding from the Manitoba Research Alliance to develop the report and we worked to fill in the blanks of that framework.”

The report is being presented as a guide for governmental and non-governmental agencies who provide services to people living in poverty. It is part of the city’s five-year development plan that seeks to ensure money is spent effectively on programs that will benefit the poor the most.

“This was an opportunity to bring all this information together in one place for easy access,” Gasparini said, adding that the document will also help organizations find funding for needed programming.

“We’re going to have a conversation with the funders of the report and determine what they see for the future of it. We hope it’s an annual or regular initiative, but a lot of it was based on census data so providing another report before the new census is out would be repetitive.”

The 36-page report discusses various influences on income and poverty in general. It incorporates local statistics regarding income, housing, employment, education, health, families and communities. While it has been developed as a key resource in implementing poverty reduction initiatives, it also seeks to spur a conversation about poverty within Brandon.

Gasprini noted that Manitoba has the highest rate of child poverty in the country, which highlights the need for work in that area. Meanwhile, Brandon’s indigenous population is, on average, younger than other sectors of the population.

“Indigenous people are far over-represented in poverty stats in total,” she said. “As a community, we want to work with our indigenous partners to start to deal with that in a serious way.

We tried to look at the issues affecting the indigenous people living in poverty throughout the report because we know there’s a strong indigenous population in Brandon.”

In its conclusion, the Brandon Poverty Compass reads: “Despite the fact that some statistics included in this report portray Brandon as faring well with respect to poverty, it is, in reality, a prominent issue in Brandon. In 2011, roughly 31 per cent of the population lived below the low-income cut-off line… and 3,180 people were unemployed. In this past year, 20,428 meals or food hampers were used through Brandon’s food banks and 40,085 meals were serviced through the Helping Hands’ soup kitchen. Although not always blatantly obvious, poverty does exist in Brandon and there are many who are in need of basic human needs and resources.”

Gasparini said statistics like the number of people being served by organizations, such as Helping Hands, provide both positive and negative information for local stakeholders dealing with the issue of poverty.

“Those numbers are high, which on the one hand, tells the story that there are a lot of people having to access those types of food services,” she said. “But on the other hand, it tells the story that we have healthy organizations providing needed services and are having a big impact on peoples’ lives.

“I was just invited to Winnipeg to talk about the great successes we have in our community for a community our size,” she added. “It is that collaboration, networking and cooperation that makes us work well. One of the reasons we developed the report was to bring this all together to make it stronger and that’s a good thing.”

© Copyright Westman Journal