There are families in Alberta living on $22,000/year. Anyone who buys groceries knows that $22,000 doesn’t go far. According to Statistics Canada, the poverty line – also known as the low-income cut-off (or “LICO”) – is a family income of $44,000/year. A family of four living below the LICO devotes a larger share of its income to the necessities of food, shelter and clothing than the average family.

A steering committee in Edmonton, composed of representatives from the United Way, community partners, corporate partners, individual donors and volunteers, has identified five neighbourhoods where they are piloting a unique approach to helping 1000 Families move over the poverty line. NewScoop connected with Anna Bubel,an Edmonton change agent and one of the leads on this project with the following inquiries.

What makes the “1000 Families” model unique?
• It is place-based rather than being agency- or institution-based. It is oriented around five particular neighbourhoods – Kirkness, Bannerman, Fraser, Clairview Town Centre and Hairsine. The steering committee has representatives from all five neighbourhoods.
• It has a holistic approach, not just one piece of the puzzle. The model works with families around five domains at the same time – basic needs, sense of belonging, personal wellbeing, skills and knowledge – all of which can support and culminate in the fifth domain, which is financial wellbeing. It is hard to learn when you are hungry or to find an apartment where there is racism.
• It is beginning from a stance of abundance and possibility rather than scarcity and need; discovering first the assets, gifts and resources in each of the five domains. What is the individual, family or community starting with? What is already in the bucket?
• Everyone is invited to the party! The stakeholder group includes engaged citizens and professionals, not- for- profits and community leagues, neighbours and local businesses, formal and informal networks, churches, Alberta Health Services, schools and libraries.Everyone can play multiple roles as both givers and receivers, providers and recipients.

image001 The steering committee has also identified what they are not going to do, see this list.

What does the 1000 Families project look like?

We’ll see interconnecting networks of stakeholders around the different domains, coordinated and facilitated by staff who weave and connect individuals and families to the resources available. These individuals and families will also be invited to support each other and the community in moving out of poverty.

All going well Anna said, she could imagine in five years that
• Hundreds of individuals are actively involved in sharing their gifts and talents with their neighbours and taking on new projects that improve the community.
• Community Leagues are experiencing growth in terms of the diversity of their membership, the growth of their volunteer base, and the range of programs they offer.
• An affordable homeownership or equity co-op building has been developed so people can stay in the community and gain equity when their incomes rise.
• The effort has raised and sustained 1,000 households over the poverty line by connecting people to living wage jobs, financial literacy training and access to benefits.
• We have more fun!  We get together to celebrate the community’s achievements, share cultural events, hold block parties, and think up more creative and satisfying things to do together.
• We have built up local capacity to continue the work, having attracted new partners and resources to a multi-stakeholder, community-steering committee that knows how to mobilize grassroots leadership and push towards a common goal.
• Relationships between volunteer associations, non-profits, and businesses have been reshaped based on the experience of working at the neighbourhood level, pulling together towards a common outcome.

To learn more about this project, join NewScoop on February 10 for our Conversations for the Common Good: The Neighbourhood Edition.

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