The Richmond Poverty Response Committee’s mission is to work towards alleviating the effects of poverty through research, advocacy as well as filling gaps in service. To that end, the RPRC is launching a new project titled “Eliminating barriers to participation for Richmond residents experiencing poverty.”
The goal is three-fold — to help those living in poverty develop a self-advocacy network to tell their stories; educate local service providers on the wide range of issues contributing to poverty; and create opportunities for like-minded folks to meet (via community forums, neighbourhood gatherings, city council meetings, etc.) to discuss and affect positive changes in policy promoting barrier-free participation.
“There’s a synergy with diverse groups of people coming together. Something is going to come out of this which could change the community, and it could be something simple,” said RPRC chair De Whalen.
The initial phase of “Barriers” will involve trained volunteers facilitating a number of conversation circles, or places where individuals experiencing poverty and agency staff can tell their stories. As the project progresses, a self-advocacy network of people experiencing poverty will be established to support each other and find opportunities to tell their stories to local agencies, groups, clubs and other organizations.
This particular demographic, that is largely ignored by society and left without a voice, includes people experiencing mental and physical disabilities, new immigrants and refugees, single parents, low-income families and seniors on pensions, and more.
Coordinator Colin Dring said at its core, the Barriers project is relational.
“It’s about highlighting these issues around poverty and then embedding them in this idea that relationships between organizations, between the community, between people living in poverty — these need to be bolstered,” said Dring.
“By enhancing and developing these relationships and networks, we can create a community-based approach to addressing poverty”
The project would not be possible without the assistance of several partners and their affiliates, such as Richmond Family Place, Richmond Drop-in Centre, Chimo Community Services, Richmond Centre for Disability, Richmond Multicultural Community Society, Richmond Public Library, Kehila Society of Richmond, Richmond Community Meals, Pathways Clubhouse, Richmond Addictions Services and Touchstone Family Services.
In order to ensure as diverse results as possible, the Barriers team intends to ask others not registered in “the system” for participation as well.
To put it simply, Whalen said of the project, “We want to find out how people living in poverty are coping and how we can make it better.”