It’s been two years since the City of Winnipeg voted in a strategy to address poverty and ways to reduce it.
Now, the city is taking what has worked and what hasn’t to craft a new plan for the next four years. This comes on the heels of data that paints a picture on the state of poverty in the city. More than one in 12 people live in poverty across Winnipeg, amounting to 8.3 per cent of the overall population.
For Indigenous residents, that number sits at one in six, and for newcomers it’s at one in seven.
The initial strategy was voted in by city council in 2021 and addressed eight key areas: implementation and systems change, affordable housing, employment and income, community well-being., transportation equity, equity in city services, food security, and community safety.
A report was bought forward to members of the Executive Policy Committee at a meeting on Nov. 14 this year, which stated that 10 per cent of the outlines actions from the initial strategy have been completed. About 40 per cent are currently underway; six per cent of the actions have yet to start.
Committee members voted to move the plan to be part of discussions for the city’s next multi-year budget.
Kate Kehler, executive director with the Social Planning Council of Winnipeg, said the city’s strategy has so far achieved a number of things. But she pointed out that the plan was “a little bit too modest in what (was) decided to move forward on.”
“What I would like to see is further investment in community safety, alternative community safety initiatives (and) policing,” said Kehler. She added that money could better spent going to places like the Downtown Community Safety Project or even to initiatives like Main Street Project’s outreach van. More 24/7 safe spaces are also needed, she said.
“That is an absolute need. We need to see ongoing funding into what (is) proven to work,” said Kehler.
As for funding, the director noted that there are various ways — even ones that are creative — to raise enough resources to strengthen initiatives.
Michael Barkman, co-chair of the City Working Group at Make Poverty History Manitoba, said that the city’s poverty issues amount to a humanitarian crisis. He pointed out that the work the city does can play a key role in ensuring the well-being of residents across Winnipeg.
The actions that the city needs to implement, said Barkman, should support those living in poverty along with ensuring their well-being and dignity. He added that the coalition hopes to address four main priorities:
- Affordable housing
- Affordable transit
- Safety measures that address harm reduction
- Training for city staff in reconciliation and “anti-oppression.”
“We need more investments that are actually going to help support staff (in getting) these great plans done. And investments in programs and policies that will affect the pocketbooks of those who are living in poverty right now,” said Barkman. “We need to do more to address root causes.”
To Barkman, while poverty in the city is a crisis that needs to be addressed, it’s also something he noted would be a lot worse without the work of advocates.
Part of the committee report states that the city’s ongoing strategy has played a role in reducing poverty, but that “when resources are provided to assist with implementation… the pace of progress can improve immensely.”
It goes on to add that the strategy has provided a “trailblazing plan” for the city to commit to poverty reduction initiatives.
— with files from Global’s Iris Dyck
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