Mayor looks for ‘big idea’ to tackle poverty in Calgary

Posted on June 29, 2011 in Social Security Policy Context

Source: — Authors: – news
June 28, 2011.    By Richard Cuthbertson, Calgary Herald

Taking a cue from the effort against homelessness, Calgary’s mayor wants to launch a similar initiative to battle poverty in the city.

Naheed Nenshi said he’s looking for a “big idea” to reduce poverty, in the same vein as the “housing first” one forged by the plan to end homelessness.

“The rates of poverty, particularly child poverty in our community, have not fallen, despite decades of people working on them,” Nenshi said.

“The system could be working better. While it’s true that much of this is in the responsibility of the federal and provincial governments, somebody has to take leadership.

“I’m not interested in endless buck passing on this.”

Nenshi is seeking up to $200,000 over two years from city hall, to be matched by an equal amount from the United Way. It’s proposed a final report be drawn together by December 2012.

In his proposal, heading to a city committee today, the mayor points the fact that one in six Calgary children live in poverty.

But one of the people who has worked on the mayor’s initiative and is also the former CEO of the Calgary Homeless Foundation, said fighting poverty could well be a bigger challenge than homelessness.

“The solution is not as evident in the case of poverty as it was with homelessness,” Wayne Stewart said.

There are some lessons to be drawn from Calgary’s attempts to end homelessness.

Tim Richter, the current CEO of the Calgary Homeless Foundation said a sense of urgency should be injected into the effort and he advocates action over process. He also has a thought on what the “big idea” should be.

“Poverty reduction is not about money,” Richter said.

“Poverty reduction is about quality of life and access to the economy and allowing people to help themselves; just create a level playing field as opposed to creating equal results.

“That would really challenge a lot of assumptions about what poverty reduction is and about . . . the role of a municipal government in that.”


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