By Sara Lyons
In 2009, The Phoenix Foundation of Boundary Communities, located in the region of BC between the Okanagan Valley and the West Kootenay, on the Canada/US border, published its first Vital Signs report.
It was a strong collaborative effort within the cluster of seven small communities that make up the region. In her opening message, Foundation President Maxine Ruzicka noted that the report highlights areas of need to encourage further dialogue and response from institutions, elected leaders, charitable organizations, and citizens.
The local economy in the Boundary is largely resource-based and times have been tough recently. Boundary Communities’ Vital Signs identified poverty as one of three key priority areas for action and improvement. Along those lines, of particular note in the report was the fact that locally, there is an acute lack of affordable, adequate rental options. Renting a home is more expensive than owning. Further, 10% of residents, and 24% of children in one town, are living in poverty. And these are figures arising prior to the 2008 economic downturn.
This past April, one local community, Grand Forks, was host to the groundbreaking for a special and unique Habitat for Humanity housing project, one that will allow seven adults with developmental disabilities to share in their own home.
courtesy Grand Forks Gazette
Community Foundation Board Member Linda Manzon was on hand to offer her congratulations: “The citizens of the Boundary told us in our Vital Signs project that two of the key issues in the Boundary were to develop affordable housing and to try and close the gap between rich and poor. This project does both remarkably well.” The initiative has drawn much public and media attention.
Leveraging the knowledge base they built through the process of doing Vital Signs, the community foundation is now looking to expand its convening role and challenging themselves and other local funders to act together and work “further upstream” on root causes of local problems.
Sara Lyons is Program Director at Community Foundations of Canada