‘Place-based’ Plans to Conquer Child Poverty: With a neighbourhood-sized social safety net, low-income families could thrive

Katie Hyslop, TheTyee.ca

Inner-city neighbourhoods like Vancouver’s Strathcona-Grandview-Woodlands region are unfairly labeled as money pits: areas where millions upon millions of dollars pour in to alleviate or eradicate the effects of poverty on the people and families who live there. Yet gross inequality continues to persist, and kids who grow up poor turn into poor parents, stuck in a never-ending cycle of poverty.

The Inner City Response Initiative, a group of service providers, community groups, health professionals, police and anti-poverty activists, want to take a different tack: a network of “place-based services” to nurture children and their families from the womb to graduation, with the idea that a fully-supported upbringing within one neighbourhood leads to a better future.

“People don’t grow up in programs, they grow up in communities,” says Scott Clark, spokesperson for Aboriginal Life in Vancouver Enhancement Society (ALIVE). “If we want to work with vulnerable populations, we have to work with them in the community they live in.”

Nurturing from uterus to university

The Inner City Response Initiative bases their ideas for place-based community strategies on the Harlem Children’s Zone, a network of programs that serves a 100-block area of Harlem, one of New York City’s poorest neighbourhoods. Starting with parenting programs for expecting parents or those with kids under three, the network of services offers “best-practice programs for children of every age through college… in-school, after-school, social-service, health and community-building programs. …

Everything the HCZ has, Inner City wants, tailored to their neighbourhood’s needs. Outlined in a document produced by the Initiative, they’re calling for pre-natal care; a full range of childcare and pre-school programs, with a one staff member to four children ratio; after-school programs in public schools….

The million-dollar solution

The Inner City Initiative is calling on the provincial and municipal governments to fund their neighbourhood strategy to the tune of $1 million — $500,000 for staffing and support, and another $500,000 for capital, saying they can use existing services to supplement what that doesn’t cover. It’s a drop in the bucket compared to the money governments have pumped into the area in the past….

With a little planning, cooperation between levels of government and social services and some extra funds, what inner city families don’t have won’t hold them back any longer.

Read online

REPORT: Succeed in Strathcona
Inner City Response Initiative