A dozen or so clasped hands

Coming to Cortes & Quadra:  SRD Poverty Reduction Plan

The Strathcona Regional District (SRD) received a $147,700 grant from the Union of BC Municipalities to prepare a region-wide poverty reduction plan. They will be holding meetings in Campbell River, Tahsis, Gold River, Cortes Island, Quadra Island and Zeballos at the end of the month. 

“Our plans are only as good as the information we receive and we really, really want to be able to address poverty in a holistic, honest and earnest way. We can’t do that without the community. So we really need you guys to come out and to talk to us. Give us your thoughts, all of your ideas, your criticisms, your comments,  your questions. Whatever you need us to know, because all of that feeds into the plan, and it makes it more robust, and just everything we do is going to help alleviate poverty in the region as a whole,” explained Meredith Starkey, Manager of Parks and Planning at the SRD.” 

Screenshot of Meredith Starkey during one of the lighter moments in the interview

“Are you struggling to have your basic needs met? Then how can we help alleviate that pressure? What are the barriers that you’re experiencing, and how can we mitigate that experience?”

The SRD will be in our area on Wednesday, February 28, 2024.

“We are coming to Quadra and Cortes on the same day. We’ll be at Manson’s Hall at 11am to 1pm. Then we head off to the Quadra Island Community Centre.  We’ll be there from 3 to 6 and then back to Campbell River.” 

“We’re developing an action plan and strategies that can actually be applied to minimize poverty in our communities. It’s focused on 8 priority areas: 

  1. Housing, 
  2. Education and training, 
  3. Employment,
  4. Safe and affordable transportation, 
  5. Families, children and youth, 
  6. Income supports, 
  7. Social support, 
  8. And discrimination and stigma.”  

“We have a whole bunch of data. We did the housing needs reports. We’ve done transportation studies. We have lots of data and statistics about poverty, and we understand the intersections of what contributes to poverty in different areas of the region.”

“We know that it’s different in rural areas and urban areas. We also know that the experience of poverty on Cortes is going to be different from the experience of poverty in Campbell River.  What we’re looking for from the community to do is to  flush that data out and make it real and to let us know more specifically what that experience of poverty might mean for a person on Cortes.”

“We often hear that we’re trying to bring Campbell River solutions into Cortes or something. That’s not really our intent. It never is, but if we don’t hear from people what is really needed, then it’s hard for us to implement those things. When we hear from you,  that helps us deliver things that you need.” 

CC: What are some examples of how the SRD could help reduce poverty?

Meredith Starkey: “With housing, that’s something that is a totally new experience for the regional district. It hasn’t been defined what that looks like and how it rolls out, but it does mean that the SRD can now be directly involved in the provision of housing. Whether that’s through providing land at a lower value to a nonprofit who could then develop that land and social housing, or we can purchase a building that is operated for seniors housing or something along those lines. It’s too early to say what exactly it will look like, but now we can be a direct partner in providing that housing, and we can support the Cortes Senior Society with projects that they’re doing more directly than we could before.”

Another example, in which the SRD intervened, rather than provided funding, was helping someone trying to book a reservation on the BC Ferries. Up until recently you needed a credit card.  

Meredith Starkey: “For a person experiencing poverty, that’s a barrier, because many people experiencing poverty don’t have credit cards or access to credit. That  makes it more difficult for someone who is experiencing poverty  to access the ferry system, to make timely medical appointments and whatever else. We can approach BC Ferries, which we did, and say, ‘hey, this is a barrier for people accessing the system,’ and they did change that.”  

“Other things we can do is  look at places like the Just Like Home program, or the Just Like Home Lodge.”

(The Campbell River Hospital serves 32 communities on North Vancouver Island and the Central Coast. Just like Home houses patients, or families, who need to stay in Campbell River during treatment. The SRD is funding all the ongoing operating costs.)  

“Things like that are a regional service that the SRD is a partner in and that can benefit people on Cortes.”

CC: Can you give us some more examples of what the SRD might do to reduce poverty?

Meredith Starkey: “Well, I’d probably look to the community to say what are the barriers?  Like daycare provision, that’s something that is a challenge in Campbell River. I’m less familiar with whether or not that  is a particular challenge on Cortes, but that’s why we’re going out to the community to see if there barriers for accessing services intended  for youth and children.”

“We need the community to really flesh out what those barriers might be. For daycare, it could be  active transport. One thing we’ve heard  on Quadra is  routes for kids to walk along, because there’s a lot of areas without sidewalks . Finding ways that we can support kids accessing school programs who might not have access to a bus service or something.”  

CC: Could you help subsidize a daycare service on Cortes?

Meredith Starkey: “Yes, we can access grant funding, for instance, in partnership. There might be other ways that we can support.” 

CC: Could you help us get a grant to support our shellfish industry?

Meredith Starkey: “Economic peace is there and, of course, a lot of these things intersect.  Workforce housing is something that is both housing and employment, where people are struggling to have places where new employees can come and live, or seasonal employees. That is already a known gap on Cortes, but there may be other things that the community hasn’t informed us of yet.” 

CC: What happens after this study is finished? 

Meredith Starkey: “It’d be a little premature for me to say, because ultimately, what is coming out of this is an action plan and an implementation plan. What those actions are, they haven’t been identified yet.” 

“What it could help us do  Is identify where we can support an existing service in your community. I’m familiar with the Cortes Housing Society, but I know that there’s other services and supports that are already functioning. Maybe we can enhance what’s there, or fill a gap with those organizations that have said, ‘we really want to do this, but we just can’t get through that hoop.’ We can come in and fill those kinds of gaps.”  

CC: I thought the SRD mostly operates through services that it sets up. 

Meredith Starkey: “We do, now that we have a housing service, for instance, that’s one barrier that has now been removed that enables us to provide more direct support.” 

“There may be other ways that we can, so it might not be something that we have a direct influence over, but for instance, like with the B. C. Ferry situation, that was just something that we advocated for, because we don’t have any authority there, but  we were doing a transportation study with BC Ferries, and so that gave us an opportunity to say, ‘okay, BC Ferries, we know that this is a limitation for something.’ That’s the role that we can play as a government when we advocate with other levels of government.” 

CC: Is there anything you would like to say to the people listeniing to this program? 

Meredith Starkey: “In addition to all of this, we do have a survey that will be coming out, so anyone who is not able to attend, there will be other avenues for providing this comment. You can follow along on the project page on the website. That is another way to keep informed of the process and you can reach out to us at any time.”

“If you have big ideas, we are receiving unsolicited information all the time and we’re happy for that. We have a community team, which is set up with all the frontline workers that are already in your community and they’re working in an advisory role. When we do have that feedback, we’ll be able to touch base with those frontline service providers and ask them ‘does this make sense?’ How can we ‘ground truth’ what we hear, and see what opportunities for partnership exist?” 

“There are lots of avenues for us to hear from the public and incorporate those ideas into the plan.”

CC: Do you have any more details about the meetings on Cortes and Quadra on February 28th?

Meredith Starkey: “We have some entertainment activities for children, so that if people want to talk to us more in depth and need their kids to be entertained,  there’s opportunities for that. Everyone is welcome to attend, there will be food provided.” 

CC: What kind of food?  

Meredith Starkey: “ I haven’t been involved in the catering, but I know on Quadra it will be provided by the Kameleon Cafe.”

CC: So the food will be provided by a local caterer.

Meredith Starkey: “I’m not sure who the caterers are on Cortes, but it’s intended to be a light lunch.”

CC: That actually brings more people out. 

Meredith Starkey: “That’s our hope. We hope you eat with us. We hope you talk to us.” 

You have been listening to planning manager Meredith Strakey talk abou the SRD’s Poverty Reduction Plan and their upcoming visits to Cortes and Quadra Islands

Top image credit: Image from the Poverty Reduction Page on the SRD website

*Footnote: All SRD images have been cropped to fit the page

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