Category "Social Development and Poverty Reduction"


Gaining job experience in invasive species management

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Social Development and Poverty Reduction

British Columbia News

Gaining job experience in invasive species management


Emergency supports extended for vulnerable people

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The Province is extending federal employment insurance exemptions and the provincial temporary crisis supplement.

These extensions will help ensure people on income or disability assistance and low-income seniors will continue to have access to the supports they need during the pandemic.

“B.C.’s response to COVID-19 has been strong and swift, but we are not out of the woods yet,” said Shane Simpson, Minister of Social Development and Poverty Reduction. “The extension of these programs will allow some breathing room for people to get back on their feet as we move through our restart plan.”

On April 2, 2020, the Province announced a three-month exemption of all federal employment insurance benefits, including the Canada Emergency Response Benefit, for people already receiving income or disability assistance at that time. This exemption was put in place to ensure current clients whose employment may have been impacted by COVID-19 did not face any additional barriers and could fully benefit from federal emergency response programs.

This exemption, which now includes the Canada Emergency Student Benefit (effective May 1, 2020), has been extended for the duration of these federal emergency support programs so that eligible people will continue to fully benefit without any reductions to their monthly income or disability assistance payments.

For those who are not eligible for the federal benefits, the Province’s temporary COVID-19 Crisis Supplement, which has been provided since April, will be extended an additional two months. This supplement will continue to be provided to low-income seniors receiving the B.C. Senior’s Supplement and income assistance and disability recipients residing in special care facilities. No action is required from recipients. The temporary $300 crisis supplement will continue to be automatically applied to cheques distributed July 22 and Aug. 26, 2020.

These interim measures are part of the B.C. government’s COVID-19 Action Plan to provide income supports, tax relief and direct funding for people, business and services. 

Learn More:

For more information on supports for people on income or disability assistance:


Buying local, buying fresh flourishing in Cowichan Valley

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People in the Cowichan Valley and Victoria will have better, safer access to fresh home-delivered, locally grown produce and products, thanks to a Job Creation Partnership project funded by the provincial government.

The Cowichan Valley Co-Operative Marketplace (Cow-op), a non-profit farmer and food processor co-operative, will receive nearly $100,000 to develop a contactless home delivery system while supporting farmers and processors in the region. Two local eligible job seekers will have the opportunity to build transferable skills in logistics, operations and community engagement until May 2021.

“The past few months have highlighted the importance of food security, as well as adaptability to deliver food from farm to table during COVID-19,” said Shane Simpson, Minister of Social Development and Poverty Reduction. “Looking forward, Cow-op’s innovative contactless home delivery system will provide training and work experience for two local individuals, while developing a safe way to deliver fresh, healthy food to buyers and supporting farmers to grow and sell their products sustainably.”

Sonia Furstenau, MLA for Cowichan Valley, said: “I’m pleased to see that the Cow-op marketplace will continue to build on their model of providing fresh local food from field to front door. This service directly supports the health and well-being of families in the agriculture business and those who enjoy their products, and helps build food security and resiliency in Cowichan.”

The Cow-op is an initiative of the Cowichan Valley Co-operative Marketplace in partnership with Cowichan Green Community. It has been providing an online marketplace for locally grown and harvested food since 2014.

“When the main sales avenues for local farmers disappeared during the pandemic, the Cowichan Valley Co-operative Marketplace and its online farmers market,, became a lifeline for them,” said Derrick Pawlowski, executive director, “We are thrilled to provide a wide range of experiences to participants and hopefully will inspire more passionate work in the sectors of food security, natural resources and agriculture, and sales and services.”

The Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction is providing the funding to Cow-op through the Job Creation Partnership stream of WorkBC’s Community and Employer Partnerships (CEP).

Quick Facts:

  • Over $19 million was invested in CEP projects around B.C. in 2019-20.
  • CEP’s goal is to increase employment and work experience opportunities in communities throughout B.C.

Learn More:

Learn more about how WorkBC can help find British Columbians jobs that are right for them:

Cowichan Valley Co-operative Marketplace:


The joy of moving, creating in a diverse community

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Sarah Lapp-Bourne is a dance artist who uses a power wheelchair. She is also a dance facilitator, a choreographer and a mentor in inclusive dance.

Lapp-Bourne always wanted to be a dancer. She enjoys the process of memorizing choreography, keeping her mind and body alive and active. As she puts it, “Dancing is an expressive outlet for me to share meaningful stories with a viewing audience.”

As a child, Lapp-Bourne started exploring creative ways to move alongside her peers in gym class by designing her own dance routines. Over the years and under her own initiative, she was able to find additional opportunities by attending conventional dance classes and adapting the movement.

In 2014, Lapp-Bourne co-founded the Vancouver All Bodies Dance Project, an inclusive dance company that brings together artists of all abilities to explore creative possibilities.

“Until All Bodies Dance was formed, consistent programming was not available to me. It has become my mission and career goal to implement sustainable and year-round inclusive dance programs throughout B.C.,” Lapp-Bourne said. “People with disabilities rarely get the chance to move their bodies in a creative way.”

In 2018, she brought All Dance Bodies to Kelowna. “With a grant from Disability Alliance BC and the Province in 2019, I was able to continue facilitating local classes with dance studio owner Lucy Hazelwood. Our teaching team provides examples from the perspective of a standing body and a sitting body.”

Her current project is Exploration Dance Kelowna, and anyone is welcome. The aim is to bring together people with and without disabilities to explore movement and create. “We strive to provide an open, safe and fun environment, where everyone can experience the joy of moving and creating within a diverse community. I am excited to be creating more opportunities for artistic activities that promote healthy and inclusive lifestyles in the Okanagan.”

One of the dancers in Lapp-Bourne and Hazelwood’s classes has severe rheumatoid arthritis. “I never thought I’d be able to participate in a dance class,” Rachael Kimola said. “I always thought in order to dance, you had to be able to move a certain way, but Exploration Dance is about doing what you can and just enjoying movement in whatever form it takes for you. It’s very freeing.”

When asked about classes during COVID-19, Lapp-Bourne said, “Like most community projects, it was difficult to move from an interactive group, working together, to then having to navigate keeping the project going while being physically distant in a field that is about creativity and connection.”

In April and May, they took classes online. “Not only did our local participants join us through video conferencing, but it provided an opportunity for anyone to join us – no matter where they live. This pandemic has closed a lot of physical doors for our program, but it has also opened up many virtual opportunities to reach a broader group of participants and even audiences. We look forward to our next session in the fall when people can come together in person and virtually to create some unique dances.”

All Bodies Dance Kelowna is one of 16 organizations funded by the Province last year to celebrate AccessAbility Week.

In recognition of AccessAbility Week, May 31 to June 6, 2020, the B.C. government is highlighting some of the individuals and organizations that provide important services to people with disabilities.

Learn More:

B.C. government accessibility initiatives:

All Bodies Dance:

B.C. AccessAbility Week 2020:

Disability Alliance BC:


AccessAbility Week grants support new skills development

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Toni’s brain injury changed her life.

Eleven years ago, she was working as an operating room technician, a vocation that requires mental acuity and physical stamina. After she sustained a brain injury, her cognitive and physical challenges meant she was unable to return to her job.

An acquired brain injury is damage to the brain caused by a traumatic event, such as a blow to the head, or a non-traumatic event, such as a stroke. Brain injury is one of the leading causes of disability and can completely alter the way people live their lives.

“When I was ready to return to work, I needed to find something that would challenge my new mind and body,” Toni said. “One of the consequences of my injury was the loss of my sense of smell and taste. I had always been a good cook but now my injury meant that I had to learn how to cook by following a recipe and using exact measurements.”

Toni enrolled in a food service skills training and employment program offered by the Cridge Centre for the Family in Victoria. It is one of 16 projects funded by the Province last year to celebrate AccessAbility Week. She received 12 weeks of training in all aspects of food services through a program that aims to remove employment barriers for individuals living with a brain injury.

Working alongside eight other brain injury survivors, Toni describes how she had to learn to work in a commercial kitchen safely and efficiently.

“I’ve learned how to supervise and be a part of a small crew of my brain injured brethren as we provide a hot lunch for secondary students four times a week. My crew and I work hard to make sure the kids have a hot meal and a warm smile to get through the rest of their day.” She said she also had to “trust in my new abilities and skills to make a tasty meal.”

Programs like the food service skills training do not just teach important skills, promote confidence and build stamina, they also provide connection, community and purpose for people living with a brain injury.

As Toni puts it, “I really don’t know what my life would have become without this program. It has literally saved my life and given me a purpose and reason to get up every day. I am challenged every day and use all the skills daily. I feel so happy and fulfilled and tired, all at the same time. I love going into the cold kitchen with my crew and transforming it into a warm, bustling space filled with laughter and love and lots of food.”

In recognition of AccessAbility Week, May 31 to June 6, 2020, the B.C. government is highlighting some of the individuals and organizations that provide important services to people with disabilities.

Learn More:

B.C. government accessibility initiatives:

Cridge Centre for the Family:

BC AccessAbility Week 2020:

Disability Alliance BC:


Local governments to develop poverty reduction action plans

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Community-based supports for vulnerable and low-income people throughout B.C. are being boosted through a series of local government poverty reduction initiatives.

With grants from the Poverty Reduction Planning and Action Program, 54 local governments throughout the province, through 29 projects, will develop poverty reduction plans and projects that directly support people in their communities.

“Poverty is a complex issue without a singular solution. It requires the co-ordination and partnership of all levels of government, organizations, businesses, communities and individuals,” said Shane Simpson, Minister of Social Development and Poverty Reduction. “These projects will empower local governments to create on-the-ground solutions for poverty that are tailored to the needs of their communities.”

The 29 projects are receiving $1.4 million, which is from a $5-million provincial grant to the Union of B.C. Municipalities (UBCM). The grant is part of the Province’s commitment to partner with local governments and communities in poverty reduction initiatives, as part of TogetherBC, B.C.’s first poverty reduction strategy.

“The dynamics of poverty change from community to community. This provincial funding program supports local governments as they work with partners to develop strategies that address the unique dynamics of poverty in local communities,” said Maja Tait, president of UBCM. “The strong response to this program from all corners of the province demonstrates the need for community-based strategies that address the needs of low-income residents.” 

The funded projects include plans to develop local poverty reduction strategies, resources and related initiatives, including projects to improve food security, develop affordable housing and increase access to public transportation. The successful proposals involve key sectors of the community, including people with lived experience, poverty reduction organizations, businesses and local First Nations and Indigenous organizations. The initiatives in the first round of applications are anticipated to be completed within one year and a second intake is expected to be announced later in 2020.

“Receiving this grant will provide several vital benefits to the community of Stewart. As we partner with UBCM and various community stakeholders, this unified approach will improve the social, nutritional and academic well-being of vulnerable families,” said Gina McKay, mayor, District of Stewart. “The funding received will assist to provide essential resources to people presently in need and will also enable training, education and support to empower sustainable healthy lifestyles in the future.”

Delivering on the Poverty Reduction Strategy is a shared priority between government and the BC Green Party caucus and is part of the Confidence and Supply Agreement.

A backgrounder follows.


Province celebrates British Columbians with disabilities

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British Columbia kicks off its third annual AccessAbility Week with $500,000 in grants to not-for-profit organizations for local accessibility projects.

The grants, which range from $10,000 to $40,000 depending on a project’s size and scope, will be distributed by Disability Alliance BC (DABC).

“AccessAbility Week is an opportunity for everyone to celebrate diversity and inclusion, and to highlight the importance of accessibility,” said Shane Simpson, Minister of Social Development and Poverty Reduction. “As a government, we’re working to identify and remove barriers that prevent people with disabilities from participating in daily life. This new funding supports that work.”

A call for proposals will be posted on the DABC website in summer 2020, and grants will be awarded by the end of the year. Last year, 14 organizations received funding for accessibility projects in their communities.

“Disability Alliance BC is thrilled to be distributing another round of grants to community organizations across B.C. to promote accessibility and inclusion in the province,” said Justina Loh, executive director of DABC. “In the past two years, we have seen some very innovative and creative projects come to life, and we have seen the number of people impacted by these community projects. We look forward to supporting more organizations across the province and hope that new organizations apply for funding this year.”

Projects can include accessible education and learning, sports and recreation, arts, culture and tourism, community participation, emergency planning and response, and accessible employment.

The Province proclaimed May 31 to June 6, 2020, as B.C.’s third AccessAbility week to promote inclusion and accessibility, and to recognize the people and organizations who are working to make B.C. a more inclusive and welcoming province for people with disabilities. The dates are the same as national AccessAbility week.

Quick Facts:

  • AccessAbility week highlights the efforts of people, communities and workplaces that are actively removing barriers so people of all abilities have a better chance to succeed.
  • This is the third year these grants are being made available.
  • As of 2017, there are more than 926,000 British Columbians over the age of 15 with some form of disability.

Learn More:

For information about B.C. government accessibility initiatives, visit:

To read the AccessAbility week proclamation, visit:


Minister’s statement on encampments in Victoria

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Shane Simpson, Minister of Social Development and Poverty Reduction, has issued the following statement regarding tent encampments in Victoria at Topaz Park and Pandora Avenue:

“Since April 25, 2020, 308 people experiencing homelessness in Victoria’s Topaz Park and Pandora corridor have been moved into safe temporary housing. The housing provided includes wraparound services such as daily meals, support with mental health and addictions challenges, and help with finding more permanent housing solutions.

“All 360 people who were camped at Topaz Park and along Pandora Avenue as of April 25 have been offered indoor accommodation. People continue to actively move into temporary accommodation today, and we will co-ordinate with the City of Victoria as we move people out and close the sites over the coming days.

“I want to thank the dozens of people who have been involved in this partnership, including staff from BC Housing, the City of Victoria, Island Health, the Province, service providers, peer support workers and outreach workers. All have approached this massive effort to house people with compassion and care, providing people with choices that best suit their individual needs.

“These actions were taken to protect the health and safety of people living in the encampments as well as the front-line workers supporting them. Moving people from these encampments to temporary safe and secure housing is a major step in the Province’s effort to support our most vulnerable people during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.

“We also continue to work with the additional people who have since moved into the area to provide them with shelter and housing options. Outside of the encampments, there are still many people in Victoria who need housing and support services. Outreach workers continue to register people on the housing registry. A resource guide has also been developed so people have information on safe places to shelter, access hygiene, harm reduction, health care and food services.

“In Victoria, as in communities around the province, our work is not done. Throughout B.C., we have more than 23,000 homes already underway or complete as part of our 10-year housing plan, and there are more to come. As part of that, we are working towards creating longer term and permanent housing solutions with ongoing supports so that after the pandemic, people do not return to homelessness but instead are able to build a better and more comfortable life. This work will continue in the months and years ahead.”


Smartphones to better connect vulnerable

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Vulnerable people, including people experiencing homelessness, will have better access to services through smartphones distributed by the social service organizations that support them.

“The need for internet connectivity has never been as important as it is right now. For people who are experiencing homelessness, the closing of public spaces like libraries due to COVID-19 has reduced connectivity options and created barriers to supports and services,” said Shane Simpson, Minister of Social Development and Poverty Reduction. “Providing smartphones for people on the street will help create easier access to those services, help people maintain physical distancing, and support people in staying connected to family and friends during this time.”

Through the Homelessness Community Action Grant program and a partnership with 7-Eleven, the Social Planning and Research Council of BC (SPARC BC) has been able to secure 3,500 smartphones to be distributed by community organizations who provide services and support for vulnerable people.

The smartphones can connect to Wi-Fi and include a pre-loaded $10 7-Eleven data card, so people have instant access to internet. The smartphones provide vulnerable people better access to vital online resources and services, including arranging medication and safe supply delivery and virtual doctor meetings.

To date, 1,000 smartphones have been distributed, 200 of which will help ensure that people who transitioned from Oppenheimer Park in Vancouver and are transitioning from Pandora Avenue and Topaz Park encampments in Victoria have access to basic communication and the connections they need as they move into safer temporary accommodations. SPARC BC will distribute the additional 2,500 smartphones to organizations and community response networks throughout the province.

“Access to basic communication plays a central role in how individuals are able to practise the physical distancing needed under COVID-19,” said Lorraine Copas, executive director, SPARC BC. “Through our partnerships with communities, it became clear that this was a gap in the system – a gap that we were able to fill in partnership with 7-Eleven, who helped us to secure the smartphones at cost.”

The Downtown Eastside SRO Collaborative received 500 of the smartphones for low-income residents living in one of the 4,500 single room occupancy (SRO) hotel units in the area. Through DTES Response and Central City Foundation, many of these smartphones have been paired with SIM cards donated by TELUS to provide $0 rate plans including unlimited nationwide talk and text and three GB of data per month. In addition to these smartphones, Wi-Fi providers have opened up their existing Wi-Fi networks to the public, including in the Downtown Eastside, to better connect vulnerable people with support.

“These smartphones are lifelines and a long-term asset for people living in the Downtown Eastside and SROs. With the smartphones, we are also able to co-ordinate the drop-off of thousands of bars of soap, food and hygiene supplies to people and connect with people about COVID-19 symptoms and testing,” said Wendy Pedersen, coordinator of the Downtown Eastside SRO Collaborative. “We shared the smartphones with other front line organizations and groups in the DTES Response effort who work with people on the ground to provide vital services in the neighbourhood.”

In June 2019, the Province provided SPARC BC with $6 million for the Homelessness Community Action Grant program. To date, 53 grants for a total of $1,648,000 have been issued with the average grant amount of $31,094.

Homelessness Community Action Grants help groups address homelessness in their towns and cities. SPARC BC is distributing the Homelessness Community Action Grants to groups and organizations over three years as a one-time grant to successful applicants. The chosen projects will build on local resources and knowledge about homelessness and its causes, increase public awareness and support, and respond to gaps in services for people experiencing homelessness.

Learn More:

Find out more about Homelessness Community Action Grants online at:

For more information about the DTES Response, visit:

For more information and the latest medical updates on COVID-19, follow the BC Centre for Disease Control on Twitter
@CDCofBC or visit its website:

For more information on non-medical issues like travel recommendations and how to manage social isolation, visit:
Or call 1 888 COVID19 (1 888 268-4319) between 7:30 a.m. and 8 p.m. (Pacific time), seven days a week.

A backgrounder follows.


Minister’s statement on major encampments in Vancouver, Victoria

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Shane Simpson, Minister of Social Development and Poverty Reduction, has issued the following statement regarding tent encampments in Victoria and Vancouver:

“This is a challenging time for everyone in British Columbia, especially those facing homelessness. Early in the pandemic it became clear that COVID-19, coupled with the ongoing overdose crisis, has created significant health and safety concerns for our province’s vulnerable people living in encampments, the professionals and volunteers that support these groups and the communities we all share.

“On April 25, 2020, the Province took the necessary steps to support people’s transition from unsafe, dense encampments in Oppenheimer Park in Vancouver, and Topaz Park and the Pandora corridor in Victoria, into safer, temporary accommodation as a first step toward more secure housing.

“Action needed to be taken for the health, safety and well-being of campers, and the front-line workers who support them. For those who were living in encampments, the wraparound health and other supports our government is providing will drive lasting, positive change for many individuals fighting hardship or addiction. The co-operation between the Province and the cities of Victoria and Vancouver, and the compassionate approach of BC Housing, service providers and the health authorities, has been remarkable.

“From the beginning, we committed to a compassionate, supportive approach, putting people’s housing and support needs first, to manage this transition. I’m encouraged our approach has been working. As of May 7, at 4 p.m., over 320 people have moved into safe, temporary accommodations in both Vancouver and Victoria, with wraparound supports to protect their health and safety.

“We have worked to ensure those who were living in Oppenheimer Park are moving into safe, temporary accommodations with wraparound supports by May 9.

“While we have been working with the hotel sector and service delivery partners toward the May 9 target in Victoria, it is now clear that more time is needed to ensure each person leaving Topaz Park and Pandora Avenue is moved into the accommodation that best meets their needs.

“To this end, the Province, in consultation with the City of Victoria, has extended the deadline from May 9 to May 20, 2020, to move people from Topaz Park and Pandora Avenue into safe, temporary accommodations. No one will be asked to leave these encampments without being offered a suitable temporary housing option.

“The Province is also developing plans for longer term permanent housing solutions for this population, with ongoing supports. These plans will build on the 23,000 homes already underway or complete through our 10-year housing plan and will include strategies to provide the right combination of housing and supports to mitigate the chances of a return to homelessness. That work will continue in the weeks and months ahead, but the priority now is on the immediate health and safety of people experiencing homelessness in these public health emergencies.

“Homelessness and affordable housing continue to be concerns throughout British Columbia. People and communities are suffering as a result. Over the last few years, we have taken urgent action to provide supportive housing for people experiencing or at risk of homelessness throughout the province, opening more than 2,100 new supportive homes for people experiencing homelessness with a further 900 underway around the province, toward a goal of 4,900 over 10 years. This includes 21 units nearing completion in Victoria and 784 complete in Vancouver.

“We knew this would be a challenging transition for people, but I am proud of the significant steps we have taken to provide safer and more secure options for people. While this pandemic has been an unprecedented challenge, it is heartening to know that hundreds of people, and the communities they inhabit, will be healthier and safer through this initiative.”

Learn More:

For daily updates on the number of people being moved from the encampments, visit:

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