Wednesday was a red letter day for the Yukon Anti-Poverty Coalition.
That’s when the Yukon Party government announced that it would be creating a Yukon Social Inclusion Strategy.
The concept is very similar to the anti-poverty strategy that the coalition has been championing since 2002.
“We don’t see poverty as just a lack of money,” said coalition co-chair Ross Findlater.
“I think there’s all kinds of poverty that people can experience like poverty of opportunity, which I think is what the social inclusion strategy is getting at – involving people who, for whatever reason, are not able to fully participate in the opportunities society has to offer.”
Aside from poverty, the broad strategy will also focus on social exclusion in the form of inadequate education, housing, health, social participation and employment as well as access to services.
“Social inclusion ensures that services target those in need and are accessible for all members of society,” said Health and Social Services Minister Glenn Hart.
“We want the Yukon to be a place where all of its citizens have a fair and equitable opportunity to participate in its cultural, social and economic growth.”
The announcement came at an opportune time: smack dab in the middle of Poverty and Homelessness Action Week.
“I think the week that we are in is well named because action is what is needed,” said Findlater.
“We know about some of the causes of poverty, and we certainly have growing evidence of the expansion of poverty. Now it’s time we take action.”
The anti-poverty coalition and volunteers did their part on Tuesday, holding the third of its Whitehorse Connects events.
Visitors to the event, held at the High Country Inn, sipped hot stew and picked through a pile of donated coats, sweaters and warm boots in preparation for the coming cold.
Health care professionals provided immunizations, foot care and blood pressure testing and some of the guests got a free haircut or therapeutic massage.
Shane Brockman wasn’t too keen on getting a massage, but he did make use of the legal services booth.
“I think it’s a good thing—all of the volunteers are friendly and courteous and I see a lot of happy people here,” he said.
“We come when we can.”
The number of people making use of the food bank’s resources have reached a “startling” amount, said Findlater.
“The need is out there and a lot of people are really being excluded from our society.”
The Yukon Social Inclusion Strategy will have four phases.
The first and current phase of the project is to develop a process to create the strategy.
This will likely take several months.
Then the government will begin collecting data – with help from the bureau of statistics – and consult with stakeholders.
The strategy will then be developed to address priorities from the data and consultations.
The fourth, long-term phase of development will be reviewing the impact of the strategy and creating an annual report.
Findlater is pleased with the broad approach the government is taking by collaborating with multiple departments and groups.
“Millions and millions of dollars have been thrown at individual initiatives but until people really come together and collaborate it won’t get better,” he said.
“Affordable housing is much more than just a physical building for many people. It needs to have other supports besides the four walls and roof.”
It will be at least a year before the social inclusion strategy is created and implemented, said Hart.
Findlater doesn’t mind waiting a little longer for such a promising strategy.
“It is an ambitious plan and it needs to get everybody on board,” he said.
“I would just encourage them to make it as soon as possible.”
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