Leeds and Grenville gain momentum and support on path to reducing poverty

Submitted by Leeds and Grenville on February 27, 2014 - 9:31am

The need for all Canadian communities to have meaningful and strategic discussions about poverty reduction continues to grow. In 2012, what began as a casual conversation amongst three community partner agencies in the community of Leeds and Grenville, has led to a community coming together to embark on a vision of the possibilities to reduce poverty for our citizens.

While Leeds and Grenville is characterized as a caring and wonderful community, we have not in past organized in such a way to openly discuss poverty. Our first step was to host a “Bridges out of Poverty” event in which 300 people attended in June 2013. The event sparked so much interest that we knew that we had to move forward and that the energy was there within our community; an energy that had endless possibilities to make a difference. 

The key question was how we would harness and direct that energy. Recognizing that many other Canadian communities had already determined their path forward on Poverty Reduction, we were keen to learn as much as possible. We initiated contact with Cities Reducing Poverty and learned that the knowledge and guidance to support us through research, support, forums, training, examples, and so many other resources were at our fingertips. Through consultation with Cities Reducing Poverty we were able to learn which communities most closely resembled ourselves in terms of their growth and development of a Poverty working group. We also attended an in-person meeting with Poverty leaders in the neighbouring community of Kingston which helped us to better understand the critical steps for success.    

We recognize that not every community is the same and similarly a poverty reduction strategy for Leeds and Grenville will not necessarily resemble another; however the gains we have made in less than one year have been significant. It is not only the learning about what other communities have done or will do, but it is also learning the pitfalls, the cautions, strategies of engagement, logical progression, the setting of reasonable and rational expectations, participant management, incorporating lived experience and communication strategies, all of which has been invaluable. As a leader in Municipal Social Services for Leeds and Grenville, our interest in poverty reduction is paramount and determining our role in a larger community strategy is one key part of the establishing the path forward. The knowledge of how other municipal governments within Ontario have participated in such will be instrumental in getting the support to move the poverty conversation forward…a conversation that will span across our entire community, a conversation that will hopefully engage an interest and energy for change.

By Alison Tutak, Director of Human Services, Leeds and Grenville, ON