The Official Anti-Poverty Plan

anti-poverty plan, KingstonKingston is a city built on plans and reports.

Or, more precisely, a city built on writing plans and reports.

Many of those plans are necessary — no one disputes the need for an official plan to guide growth — but many plans get developed, released and then, well, nothing happens.

Poverty is one of those areas where city hall, agencies and advocacy groups have developed and released numerous reports over the years. The United Way has released a homelessness and housing report every other year for the past decade. The city, likewise, has developed and released homelessness and housing strategy reports in years past. Its last social housing strategy was released in 2005, but hasn’t been updated since.

No one in Kingston believes there isn’t a social and economic problem here that needs to be solved, but it is impossible to get universal buy-in on one plan of action. And so the carousel of plans goes round and round.

This year brings the promise of yet another plan to address poverty. This new plan, though, is being billed as the plan. Think of it as the official anti-poverty plan, a document that can guide decision making at city hall and in the wider community in the coming years as Kingston works to help those less fortunate in its population.

Late last year, the city, United Way and the Kingston Community Roundtable on Poverty Reduction quietly formed a group to again study the issue of homelessness and poverty in Kingston. Their mission was to end the succession of proposals to address the issue and come up with the plan to guide decision-making in the coming years. The trio agreed to a strict timeline of six months with the possibility of extending three more if all parties agreed it was necessary. The final report is tentatively scheduled for May.

The city has already put $25,000 into the process and allocated $85,000 this year to fund the work.

This time, there appears to be a spark of hope that this time Kingston will get it right.

“I can’t see why we couldn’t,” said Bhavana Varma, executive director for the local chapter of the United Way. “It’s a starting point. It’s building on the strengths in our community.”

The end result, she said, wouldn’t have one organization be the lead on implementation of any recommendations, but create an organizational framework with existing bodies that is supposed to be accountable to the taxpayer and social services users. The translation: There will be no new bureaucratic body; the existing bureaucracy, both inside and outside of city hall, will actually work in a more coordinated fashion.

At least that’s the hope. Or as city staff put it in a report to council in September 2010, “ultimately, durable results come from building incrementally from a modest but firm foundation. The forthcoming strategy may begin with projects that show tangible, short-term results, while keeping the broader vision in mind over a much longer period of time…. By understanding and measuring how people meet basic needs, remove barriers, build skills, and promote social and economic development we can effectively mobilize various sectors to undertake activities that create better opportunities for the reduction of poverty.”

After years of reports, maybe success for this plan won’t be the results it produces, but whether it isn’t forgotten soon after it hits the public light.

Thanks to Nomadiq Miles for the photo accompanying this post.

8 thoughts on “The Official Anti-Poverty Plan

  • How many low income people are on this organization's steering committee? Do they meet in an accessible location or only where people with cars can get to? Do they meet during the day, so that people with high paying social service high fallutinl jobs get paid to go to these meetings, while the working poor cannot? Perhaps, with real life low income leadership, change might soon become a reality instead of another interlude to a new study.

    • 6 members are reserved for people who are or were poor.

    • Their website is a little out of date, so I can't say for sure where or when they meet, but my impression from a colleague that is involved is that they meet downtown, and that the meetings take place in the early evening.

      • till recently i was a member of the Roundtable, and we meet in the evenings so that all of our members can attend. childcare and bus fare are also provided for those who need it, as well as dinner for everyone who comes to the meetings.

  • Even open meetings would be a start toward transparency. Kingston is a town where someone grabs the levers of power and then, holds on to them forever. For sake of example, nearly 30 years ago, the newly elected French Language Section of the Frontenac County School Board had a choice between Balsom Grove Public School and Niagara Park Public School for the new public elementary school. The 3 trustees chose Niagara Park. Why? It is in the middle of an army base. There is little population growth in the area. It is cut off from the main part of Kingston by the LaSalle Causeway. Fast forward nearly 30 years and the former Duncan MacArthur School will be re-opened as a public French-Language elementary school in the fall of 2011. Duncan MacArther is a 10 minute walk from Balsom Grove. It has taken 30 years to get to the right decision. How many more years before the City of Kingston starts talking to the right people–those personally affected by the low welfare rates, the lack of affordable transportation, the lack of accessible stores, and other services, etc.

    • I don't know that a 30 year old example is valid at this point. The City of Kingston as we know it wasn't even around at the point, and I don't know about the demographics of City back then, but I can tell you that the population in the Eastern part of the City is growing quite quickly, increasing by 25.8% over the last 5 years. Anecdotally, it seems to me that there is a large, and perhaps the largest concentration French-speaking residents in that part of the City.

      I agree – the City needs to consult the "proper" groups when discussing issues such as poverty and accessibility – but you know what? For the most part, they are. The City has an accessibility committee, the poverty roundtable includes members from a cross-section of the community, and citizens can attend many City meetings and sit on many different committees and boards. Could they do a better job at some of this stuff? Likely. There's always room to improve, I think the City deserves more credit than they usually get here.

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