This year is the 10th anniversary of the creation of Revelstoke’s Social Development Committee and Jill Zacharias’ 10th anniversary of coordinating for the committee.
Last Tuesday she updated city council on her work plan and the progress the committee has been making.
“For me it really comes down to we all have the same vision, we all want good quality of life, we all want a vibrant, healthy and safe community, but we find ourselves in an increasingly complex society and social issues, like affordable housing are highly complex and constantly evolving which necessitates that we all work together,” Zacharias said.
In order to reach these goals the city needs healthy individual capacity, healthy organizational capacity, and strong networks, she added.
New to Zacharias’ position this year was working on affordable and emergency housing.
“Without a doubt housing is definitely the biggest social and economic issue,” Zacharias said.
Other priorities for her as well as the committee include poverty reduction, affordability, mental health and addiction as well as remaining a diverse and inclusive community.
Zacharias also supported age friendly planning, the early childhood development committee and the seniors association youth initiative.
One of Zacharias’ responsibilities is finding funding. Last fall she acquired three years of funding from the Vancouver Foundation, which increases her work hours by 20 each month and provides $10,000 a year each to the Local Food Initiative, the Community Literacy Table and the Early Childhood Development Committee.
With those additional 20 hours a month, Zacharias is able to work on the housing issue as well as chair Tamarack’s BC Communities of Practice committee and participate in other regional initiatives.
One of the projects Zacharias has worked on was the state of poverty report, for which they now have 15 years worth of data.
“We found that the number of low income families in our community has increased with time, the percentage has remained fairly constant,” Zacharias said.
They also found that the median income has gone up for all families but has increased to a greater degree for high income households.
“The median income of men in Revelstoke is consistently higher than provincial averages, but for women its lower,” Zacharias said.
In Revelstoke women consistently make 60 per cent of what men make.
“With the rise in cost of living this means that low income households will be working harder to make ends meet,” Zacharias said.
In April Zacharias update the living wage analysis for Revelstoke, and found that it remains the fourth highest in the province.
Zacharias also looks at indicators of deep poverty.
“We found that there are consistently 200-250 individuals in our community over time that experience deep poverty,” she said.
However, Zacharias is excited because funding and policy is coming down from both the provincial and federal government to address poverty reduction and housing issues.
“There is so much opportunity to move forward right now, it is very exciting,” she said.
The tricky part is having the people power to manage projects that get funded.
“My hope is if one organization doesn’t have the capacity, we bring people together and organizations together, so together we can build that capacity,” Zacharias said.
This past year Zacharias has also contributed to the development of the proposed Development Cost Charge Bylaw that was voted down by city council. She also secured continued funding from Shared Care BC for the Child and Youth Mental Heath and Substance Use Local Action Team.
The impacts of the team have been far reaching, Zacharias said.
“Primarily we are seeing and active building and deepening of relationships between service providers.”
Another project Zacharias completed was the youth drug survey earlier this year, which included discussion on cannabis.
“Youth have told us that the pending legalization of cannabis is confusing for them–they are receiving mixed messages,” Zacharias said.
The youth need concrete reliable information and so does the rest of the community.
Along with the a few other organizations in town, Revelstokelife.ca will be launching later this month.
“The goal is to have an easy to navigate one stop shop for all of the health and social services in the community,” Zacharias said.
She is also in the middle of organizing the 6th Annual Welcome week.
“I always get such positive feedback,” Zacharias said. “The goal is to increase people’s sense of belonging and engagement with the community.”
Zacharias also outline upcoming issues that she feels the community will have to plan for, including the loss of Greyhound.
She said she is looking forward to working on the housing strategy and updating the Official Community Plan.