New Brunswick

Saint John group gets funding to fight generational poverty

A Saint John group will test-drive and implement new ways to end lifetime child poverty in the city, thanks to a five year, $10 million funding agreement with the province.

Saint John has a 30 per cent rate of child poverty, double the national average

Child poverty rates in Saint John are at 30 per cent, which is double the national average. In some neighbourhoods, the rate is between 40 and 47 per cent. (CBC)

A Saint John group will begin testing and implementing new ways to end lifetime child poverty in the city, thanks to a funding agreement with the province.

The New Brunswick government announced Tuesday that it will invest $10 million over the next five years in Living SJ — a collective of more than 100 partners represented by local government, business, non-profit and neighbourhood groups.

In the past, the group collaborated on different projects to reduce poverty in Saint John, including a neighbourhood-based health centre in the city's north end that provides patients with regular access to a nurse practitioner.

But it never had the long-term security to explore new or unique ways to fight poverty, said executive director Donna Gates.

"Poverty takes years to root and it will take years to solve and that's why the multi-year funding is so important," she said. "It gives us even more freedom to be able to dream and to be able to create those innovative ideas that we hope will really make a difference in the lives of people living in poverty."

High poverty rate

Executive director Donna Gates said Living SJ has never had the long-term security to explore new or unique ways to fight poverty. (Port Saint John)

Gates said Saint John has a 30 per cent rate of child poverty, which is double the national average. In some neighbourhoods the rate is between 40 and 47 per cent, and in many cases she said poverty is passed on through the generations.

Now that the Social Innovation Fund is in place, the group will create a committee to develop criteria for evaluating and implementing potential projects. By September, Gates said everything should be ready for partners of Living SJ to apply and receive the funding to test their ideas.

The group will receive $2 million every year through the Regional Development Corporation and the Department of Social Development. Gates stressed that they will be very nimble with their approach.

"We want to take small pilot projects and be able to monitor their success and we will have outcomes attached to them," she said. "And then the idea would be that for our most successful project, we'll go work with the province to scale those and replicate them where appropriate in other places in the province."

Not replacing other funds

Gates added that the fund is not replacing other investments in community programs.

In a press release, the province said the fund complements existing efforts to reduce poverty in the province. These include a recent increase to the minimum wage to $11 an hour, as well as investments in education, literacy programs and affordable housing.

"By working with community leaders in Saint John, we will have the most collaborative and strategic effort to reduce poverty we have ever seen right here in the Port City," said Premier Brian Gallant.

now