Measuring the pulse

Vital Signs survey provides insight into citizens’ views on Penticton’s quality of life

Insp. Brad Haugli (left) of Penticton RCMP and a member of the community leadership team talks with Vital Signs project official Aaron McRann about some of the issues surrounding safety in the city. The report is a community check up on quality of life. In the police car is Staff Sgt. Dave Fayle.

Insp. Brad Haugli (left) of Penticton RCMP and a member of the community leadership team talks with Vital Signs project official Aaron McRann about some of the issues surrounding safety in the city. The report is a community check up on quality of life. In the police car is Staff Sgt. Dave Fayle.

Vital Signs, a report card commissioned by the Community Foundation of the South Okanagan, shows Penticton has its work cut out when it comes to housing.

Respondents to the survey gave housing in Penticton a D- in the community checkup document that measures the vitality of the community, identifies issues and trends and provides citizens with an opportunity to assign grades in a range of areas critical to the quality of life.

“Housing is always a difficult issue, but we are working on it,” said Mayor Dan Ashton. “For example, the city is working with Habitat For Humanity. Or, when you look at the Kiwanis Village where the city stepped in for deferral on some of the costs. I think we have been taking some very good steps in the right direction. Are we there? No, but we have to do it in conjunction with other organizations and provincial and federal government agencies.”

Aaron McRann, executive director of the Community Foundation of the South Okanagan, said the Vital Signs report has two intentions. One is to help the Community Foundation when it develops its long-term strategy of giving out grants ($178,000 last year) that are applied for by different local charities.

“One of the reasons we tried to produce it without tainting it with our lens is because we want it to be something that could be used by every level of government as well as different groups in the community that are doing work to help those in need,” said McRann.

“It also can be used by groups like the Rotary Club and other service clubs that have money to give out to local charities so they can focus their community initiatives. This is a document that a service club or charity can use as a conversation starter to help focus on an area of need. We want to stimulate conversation, and hopefully that creates collaboration between groups and that usually leads into positive change and that is really our goal.”

The highest grade Penticton received was a B in the categories of learning, safety and belonging and leadership.

Research findings showed a three per cent higher average than the rest of B.C. when it came to local First Nations students completing high school and 46.9 per cent of people 15 years and older have post-secondary education. Citizen feedback suggested continuing to develop the college and local arts facilities for lifelong learning and convince the school district to embrace smaller school models rather than closing neighbourhood schools.

While there is still work to be done to reduce crime, the citizen feedback indicated most feel Penticton is a fairly safe community. Vital Signs research shows 93 per cent of Okanagan residents report being satisfied with life and 73 per cent report a strong sense of community belonging.

The research said poverty is a challenging issue, not only across Canada, but in Penticton. The gap between the rich and poor in Penticton was given a D grade. Findings showed 12 per cent of Penticton’s elderly lived in poverty in 2005 and one-third of families earn less than $14.44 per hour, which is the estimated living wage for a family of four in 2011.

The remainder of the grades for Penticton include a B- in the health and wellness category, C in arts and culture, B- in getting around, C+ in environment, C for newcomers and D+ in work.

“I think whether or not the results or grades are surprising depends on your perspective,” said McRann. “We wanted to provide a document that is a baseline and non-partisan, so a person can look at it and say this isn’t the way I want it to be and go and make a change. Or, alternatively, say this is the way I want it and let’s focus on something different. Overall the comments I have heard to date is that it generally seems to match most people’s assumptions about the community.”

To view a full copy of Vital Signs visit www.cfso.net.