Forum takes aim at income gap in Penticton

Community Foundation of the South Okanagan hosting forum Tuesday night at Shatford Centre

Talking openly and collaboratively is the only way Aaron McRann believes positive change can happen in Penticton.

That’s the reason the executive director of the Community Foundation of the South Okanagan said they are hosting a public forum about the gap between rich and poor in the city on Tuesday at the Shatford Centre at 7 p.m.

“We don’t want people to walk around thinking the problem is too big for them. It is not. The reality is, if each of us does a little bit then the problem is not very big at all,” said McRann.

The forum builds on the work of Penticton’s Vital Signs report released by the Community Foundation last October. In that report, surveyors answered questions on 11 key issue areas affecting quality of life in Penticton. The three lowest grades were given to the gap between the rich and the poor, work and housing.

The Vital Signs survey found the lowest 50 per cent of income earners receive only 22 per cent of total income earned by all workers in Penticton. In addition, almost 14.5 per cent of children under 18 were living in poverty in Penticton in 2005 — the last available statistic.

“We all have the opportunity to make a bit of a difference, and if we can, become a community that cares about that kind of thing. Lift one person up and we lift all of us up,” said McRann. “We want as many people as possible to come out and express their interest in helping and any creative ideas they have on solutions as well.”

Four panelists will be speaking about their experiences in working with people affected by poverty including Tanya Behardien from Penticton and District Community Resources Society, Bernadette Otto from the Penticton and Area Women’s Centre, Barb Haynes from the Downtown Penticton Association and Christine Simmons from the Salvation Army. After brief presentations from the panelists, the public is welcome to ask questions or provide input and possible solutions to the problem of the gap between the rich and poor.

“If you just take a report like Vital Signs and put it on the shelf, it doesn’t do much good for anything. If people use it as an impetus for change, then it is a good motivator,” said McRann. “We have some people living very difficult lives in our community and it affects us all.”

For more information on Penticton’s Vital Signs report, visit www.cfso.net/vital-signs-2011/ or call the Community Foundation office to have a copy mailed at 250-493-9311. The public is encouraged to register for the forum by calling that number or visiting www.Facebook.com/CFSouthOkanagan. McRann said a further forum on Sept. 11 will focus on housing and another on work will happen on Nov. 13.