Thursday night we had a community conversation out in Sylvan Lake, the first of three we have planned (one coming up in Penhold and one in Innisfail). I can’t stand poverty and I hate seeing the effects it has on people and communities, so I’m really interested in hearing what others think and what they want to do about this scourge.

We had a bit of a late start with the co presenters’ technical difficulties etc  but everyone was so gracious. Once the conversational ball got rolling I was so impressed with what people shared, and I learned a lot.

I heard community members say that Sylvan has seen significant growth in its retail sector, which has led to a marked increase in what’s referred to as “unskilled” jobs. The problem is that affordable housing has not kept pace with the business development, and people working in Sylvan in lower income brackets struggle to find housing they can afford. The server who waited on us for the evening told me she is lucky she has found a place to live within walking distance of the restaurant, because at $900/mo rent she needs to cut corners everywhere else. Cindy from FCSS said that the housing program in Sylvan Lake is just getting its feet under it and there will be more attainable housing options coming on stream in the town over the next few years.

Another fellow I spoke with, a teacher at an outreach school, says the province needs to find a way to stop charging young adults when they return to school after dropping out. “The reasons kids drop out are very complex,” he said, “but if we’re going to make them pay $700 per course later on when they want to improve themselves, we’re putting a major barrier in their way.”

I also spoke with a young lady who works in one of the local schools. She said it breaks her heart to see hungry kids. The schools all now have breakfast programs, which is terrific, but the group Thursday night wanted to find ways to deal with the issue of stigma.

 

The main thing I got out of the evening was that the people of Sylvan Lake really care about their community. The people struggling with poverty are not being ignored and the issue is not swept under the carpet. One of the program coordinators is going to organize a meeting for me with people directly impacted by poverty,  and I am certainly looking forward to that conversation. There is a lot of good being done in this community and people are ready, willing and able to work together to reduce poverty. Good on ya, Sylvan Lake!

I’m excited about the meetings we’re planning for other communities in the constituency too. The Penhold meeting is planned for Feb 21st in the lounge at the Penhold Multiplex at 7pm. Email campaign@danielleklooster.ca or call Sharolyn at 403.755.1579 for more details. If you can’t attend but still want to give input, comment on this blog or email me at danielle@danielleklooster.ca