The Richmond Poverty Response Committee launched the “Eliminating barriers to participation for Richmond residents experiencing poverty” project in late 2016. The first phase of involved a series of facilitated conversation circles where both individuals experiencing poverty and agency staff could share their stories in a safe environment. Below is an executive summary of the final report based on those conversation circles findings.
According to the Low-Income Measure, it is estimated that just over 22 per cent of Richmond residents would be considered low income in 2011. The percentage of low-income households is much greater than the provincial (16.4%) and national (14.9%) averages. We show that the experience of poverty results in substantial barriers to full participation in communities and in Richmond. Currently, we are failing to reduce the impacts of poverty.
Twenty-four agency staff and members of the public were trained in the Conversation Circle approach representing 15 different agencies. 55 people participated in the Conversation Circles (a dialogue-based focus group approach) in Richmond, BC from February to June of 2017. Conversation Circles were hosted at Richmond organizations and community spaces: CHIMO Community Services, Gilmore Park United Church, Richmond Centre for Disabilities, Richmond Food Bank Society, Richmond Multicultural Community Services, and Touchstone Family Association.
All participants spoke to their experiences struggling to survive and the desire for a ‘good life’. This ‘good life’ was described as able to meet basic needs: affordable and well-maintained housing, an adequate quantity and quality of food, affordable transportation, and a living wage. In addition to these basic needs, participants expressed a desire to contribute to their communities. These arose through an identification of short and long term solutions to barriers to participation in society.
Participants discussed the need for skills and knowledge to put their ideas into action. We proposed the formation of a group comprising people with lived experience of poverty supported by the broader Richmond community; this group’s purpose will be to advocate for and support people experiencing poverty.