Cranbrook is experiencing significant changes in the community's social fabric regarding social challenges with homelessness, addictions, and crime.
The City of Cranbrook, the Regional District of East Kootenay (RDEK), the College of the Rockies and the Cranbrook and District Chamber of Commerce partnered in the 2022 Poverty Reduction Planning and Action program. This program is designed to support local governments in reducing poverty at the local level and support the province’s poverty reduction strategy.
Stemming from the Cranbrook and Area Poverty Reduction Plan completed in September 2021, a new regional program – the East Kootenay Collaborative for Reducing Poverty – was born and held a two-day conference on October 28 & 29, 2022. The meeting allowed participants to hear about innovative programs and projects developed in other communities and develop key recommendations for this area. You can read the ‘East Kootenay Collaborative for Reducing Poverty Report' here.
The work of the East Kootenay Collaboration for Reducing Poverty Project Committee 2022, including interactions with individuals living rough and discussions with the non-profit groups, indicates Cranbrook’s agencies and provincial government services are supporting people in increased numbers. These agencies and services continue to attempt to address the numerous issues of housing, mental health, drug addiction, and poverty in Cranbrook. Many of these programs and non-profits are struggling to meet the growing and changing needs of the community.
The most significant recommendation to come out of the conference was to request the City of Cranbrook to contract an individual by utilizing the Union of British Columbia Municipalities (UBCM) Poverty Reduction & Action Program. This individual would liaise with the various non-profit agencies and encourage collaborative approaches to caring for the City’s most vulnerable citizens, thereby alleviating the potential negative impacts on the community. The position would eventually draw in the necessary resources, creating a team approach to best address the challenges. This initiative will be a broader poverty reduction initiative (Phase 2) and would follow a more immediate initiative to work on the very visibly growing homeless population in Cranbrook (Phase 1).
In Phase 1, the City is creating a Social Development Coordinator position, This position would help reduce the impacts of visible homelessness on our bylaw services, RCMP, and Fire & Emergency Services. This role was successfully filled by Marcel Germer, who started in this position for the City on May 17, 2023.
The Social Development Coordinator is to coordinate with the Provincial and Federal governments more proactively, coordinating with federal, provincial, and local non-profit delivered programs to identify gaps in social services to improve the outcomes for the homeless population of these programs in Cranbrook. This position will also be vital in creating communications to educate the community on these social issues and inform residents and business owners about the important work being done.
The Regional District of East Kootenay (RDEK) also funds a portion of this position. The RDEK Board approved funding of $85,000 toward the role, following approval of their 5-Year Financial Plan on March 17, 2023.
Phase 2 will utilize grant funding from the Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM) for additional resources to help move beyond the daily issues with more secure, long-term funding. This second phase recognizes the recommendation from the East Kootenay Collaboration for Reducing Poverty conference.
This Social Integration Specialist – is a separate contract position funded through the UBCM in addition to the City’s Social Development Coordinator. This second position will investigate housing attainability and land use, social planning, complex needs, homelessness, shelter services, transitional housing, poverty and harm reduction, vulnerable populations, community health and wellness, food security and community building. Recommendations on policy and future programming priorities are also important outcomes. This second phase will operate under a non-profit model like the City of Vernon.
The social challenges with homelessness, addictions and crime continue to grow and change. The City of Cranbrook, the East Kootenay Collaboration for Reducing Poverty Committee, and many local non-profit organizations and support programs are committed to working together to identify service gaps and emerging issues and most importantly create plans to help manage these issues for the community.