VICTORIA – The Province and the Union of BC Municipalities have identified seven communities to participate in a pilot project where poverty-reduction strategies will target the unique needs of families struggling to get out of poverty in those communities.

Prince George, Cranbrook, Port Hardy, Surrey, New Westminster, Stewart and Kamloops have been identified as the first to pilot community poverty-reduction strategies. These communities were recommended by the UBCM to reflect a mix of metro, urban, rural and remote communities across B.C.

“Communities are different. Families are different. That is the essence of this project that promotes collaboration and sharing new, innovative ideas that recognize each community and each family has distinctive needs and resources,” said Mary McNeil, Minister of Children and Family Development. “The goal is to provide low-income families with tailor-made springboards out of poverty by focusing on their strengths – not just their needs.”

The ministry is appointing seven community poverty strategy consultants to forge partnerships with local governments, community organizations and local businesses. The consultants will co-ordinate and lead community teams in developing action plans that address the needs of families living in poverty. Action plans with measurable targets will be developed over the summer with implementation scheduled for September 2012.

The strategies will optimize existing resources and will initially focus on families with children living in poverty. They will be guided by feedback from town hall meetings, community discussions and conversations with low-income families and individuals vulnerable to poverty. Key to developing successful strategies is recognition that each community has distinctive needs and resources.

Community teams will take responsibility for the day-to-day implementation of the project. Key to these strategies is working directly with families to understand their individual needs, connect them with supports and to develop personalized paths out of poverty designed by families themselves.

The Province will appoint a provincial steering committee, including representatives from provincial cabinet, the UBCM, the voluntary sector and the business community to guide the project.