Samantha Dick (left) and Sabrina Jeff attended a community meeting in Williams Lake Friday organized by the Minister of Social Development and Poverty Reduction. The two women work at Punky Lake Wilderness Camp Society. Monica Lamb-Yorski photos

Poverty reduction strategies focus of community meeting

Ideas shared in Williams Lake will go into a provincial report to develop a poverty reduction strategy for B.C.

A Williams Lake couple who attended the Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction strategy meeting held in Williams Lake last Friday was able to tap into resources they desperately need.

Cheryl Clough and Trent Jobin found out recently that the woman they are living with is being evicted in about two weeks.

“We’ve been hearing about how much poverty and homelessness there is around here,” Clough said. “And we’re going to be pretty well homeless here in a few weeks.”

When asked what they are going to do, Clough said they met Wayne Lucier, homeless outreach worker, Canadian Mental Health Cariboo Chilcotin Branch, at the meeting and had an appointment with him Monday morning.

Jobin is originally from Williams Lake which is why they moved here from Vernon in October.

Their children are grown up.

While in Williams Lake with the poverty reduction committee, Mable Elmore, Parliamentary Secretary for Poverty Reduction, met with the Cariboo Friendship Society and members of the M├ętis Nation.

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“I heard about the challenges on reserve and off reserve and saw that the housing units are being renovated at the Cariboo Friendship Society,” Elmore said. “They are dealing with a lot of issues supporting single mothers and parents who may be on income assistance, but want to upgrade their skills and making sure they aren’t bumped off or lose income assistance or childcare subsidy.”

She also attended a round table discussion at Community Futures, where she met with a number of organizations, including the Chamber of Commerce.

“When we talk about poverty reduction it’s really two sides of the same coin. On the one hand I heard that there is a lot of need for workers and there’s a challenge to ensure people have adequate skills to work in local businesses. And then we’re hearing a common theme across the province — affordable housing, access to affordable health care and child care.”

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The meeting format saw people sitting at tables to brainstorm together.

Elmore was sitting with Mayor Walt Cobb and the RCMP and heard from them about the need for adequate services for mental health and addiction.

“Those are big issues too,” she said.

Cobb said he found the meeting helped identify issues the community is well aware of and get them down on paper.

“Now we have to see what we can do about it,” he said.

Samantha Dick works with support services for probation clients at Punky Lake Wilderness Camp Society in Williams and said the meeting was informative.

Aside from the themes already mentioned, Dick added transportation as another issue for people.

“If someone gets a job, slightly out of town, how are they going to get there?” she asked. “Those are issues we deal with at Punky Lake like trying to help at-risk youth find employment.

Dick’s colleague Sabrina Jeff works with probation clients in support services.

She grew up in foster care and said young people aging out of the system face many challenges.

“You have a two-year waiting period for social assistance where you have to prove independence on your own,” Jeff explained.

She listed everything from budgeting to cooking as things kids need to be taught.

Living in a foster home, Jeff did chores to earn a weekly allowance, but was never taken grocery shopping, taught how to cook or to apply for a job.

“When I aged out I had no life skills, but at least I had supports until I was 24,” Jeff said. “Now they age out and that’s it.”

Friday’s meeting in Williams Lake was one of 28 meetings taking place across the province, that will wrap up at the end of March.

There is also an opportunity to submit feedback online by March 30.

Read More: Poverty reduction consultation meeting slated for Williams Lake

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