Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 7/9/2014 (2096 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
While election cycles bring some community challenges to the spotlight, the work creating solutions to these complex challenges is ongoing. Winnipeg's inner-city neighbourhoods have been quietly transforming -- creating employment, reducing poverty, reversing neighbourhood decline and preventing crime.
The Merchants Corner will offer education and housing where a notorious hotel once stood; the Social Enterprise Centre is providing training and jobs to communities while improving housing stock; Neechi Commons is bringing fresh food where no other grocery store stands, along with stable and local jobs.
Community organizations have been the driver of these success stories, but they thrive with supportive governments that move the policy levers and resources at their disposal.
The Province of Manitoba has taken significant steps to work with our communities. The City of Winnipeg has not.
On Oct. 22, community leaders are looking for a change at city hall that will see their efforts supported by an effective partnership with our municipal government, one that supports the great work already being done.
Far too many Winnipeggers want to work, but don't have the skills or opportunity to access jobs. Leaders in the community have responded by creating profitable businesses that address this challenge, called social enterprises.
Social enterprises are non-profit businesses with a social mandate, and Winnipeg has successful social enterprises providing training, support and jobs for people shut out of the workforce, whether due to a criminal record, a physical or intellectual disability, or having no high school diploma. Social enterprises have moved hundreds of Winnipeggers who would otherwise be unemployed into jobs, providing opportunities to support their families and contribute to their communities.
Smart government policy can help these businesses grow to ensure anyone who wants to work has the opportunity.
If the City of Winnipeg would value the economic and social impact of its purchases, it would receive a better bang for its buck.
For instance, when the city hires renovators, it can contract social enterprises at the market rate who will provide training and jobs to at-risk individuals, thereby reducing costs to policing while breaking the vicious cycle of poverty. Purchasing from social enterprises provides the City of Winnipeg with a unique, long-term return on investment -- savings through crime prevention, increases in tax revenue and healthy communities.
The Province of Manitoba, along with jurisdictions around the world -- municipal, provincial and federal -- have shown this approach to buying goods and services is achievable, and the resulting growth in social enterprises has demonstrated it works.
But a stronger social-enterprise sector providing jobs and training is not a silver bullet. Training and employment can be a pathway out of poverty, but we know success depends on a safe, affordable place to live.
Affordable housing is scarce in most major Canadian cities. Calgary has committed to supporting the development of 8,500 affordable housing units by 2018. Saskatoon has targeted 5,000 units over the next 10 years.
Winnipeg's new housing plan commits to developing 75 affordable rental units over five years -- 15 units per year. It has the resources to support the development of much more than this.
Community groups are calling on the City of Winnipeg to support the development of at least 350 new units of both social and affordable housing in Winnipeg over three years. The province has committed to developing 500 units of both social and affordable housing across Manitoba in the next three years. Groups such as Right to Housing have identified several ways the city can support these efforts without any budgetary changes, including planning and land use, land donations, inclusive zoning and tax-increment financing.
The City of Winnipeg can be a powerful player in ensuring its communities and economic opportunities are inclusive to our vulnerable neighbours. Beyond housing and employment, action can be taken to ensure all have access to transportation, food security, recreation and social supports.
Cities across Canada have created comprehensive plans guiding the actions they are taking to reduce poverty. Winnipeg has no comprehensive strategy, and community organizations have seen their good work slow due to funding cuts in recent budgets.
In 2009, the Province of Manitoba launched a poverty-reduction strategy. Community leaders have been asking the City of Winnipeg to take action and commit to a poverty-reduction strategy that partners with provincial efforts.
Communities know what they need to thrive. Citizens are finding innovative and effective ways to support their communities, and they will continue to make progress toward poverty reduction, safer neighbourhoods, better health and stronger local economies no matter who is elected. Together, we can do more and we can do it better. It's time for the city to join us.
Kirsten Bernas and Darcy Penner work on research and policy for the Canadian Community Economic Development Network -- Manitoba.
Your support has enabled us to provide free access to stories about COVID-19 because we believe everyone deserves trusted and critical information during the pandemic.
Our readership has contributed additional funding to give Free Press online subscriptions to those that can’t afford one in these extraordinary times — giving new readers the opportunity to see beyond the headlines and connect with other stories about their community.
To those who have made donations, thank you.
To those able to give and share our journalism with others, please Pay it Forward.
The Free Press has shared COVID-19 stories free of charge because we believe everyone deserves access to trusted and critical information during the pandemic.
While we stand by this decision, it has undoubtedly affected our bottom line.
After nearly 150 years of reporting on our city, we don’t want to stop any time soon. With your support, we’ll be able to forge ahead with our journalistic mission.
If you believe in an independent, transparent, and democratic press, please consider subscribing today.
We understand that some readers cannot afford a subscription during these difficult times and invite them to apply for a free digital subscription through our Pay it Forward program.