What are the issues facing you and your neighbours in poverty right now? What would work to help you and other community members get out of poverty?

These were the two questions asked of Sunshine Coast residents at the Sunshine Coast Poverty Reduction Strategy meeting at Roberts Creek Community Hall on Thursday, March 15.

According to the province, the poverty rate in B.C. “is among the worst in Canada.” In an effort to reduce the impact of poverty, the B.C. government is asking for input on the unique challenges communities face and what can be done to help them thrive.

It’s the first week of spring. Time for the city’s government to start thinking about next winter.

I know, I know — the snow has barely melted, and as I wrote Wednesday, our politicians seem to have already checked out in anticipation of the fall election. But the city ombudsman’s report into cold-weather shelter services provided to the homeless demands immediate attention. The problems it lays out and makes bare cannot wait. By the time the new council is elected and seated, another year of our annual crisis will be upon us, and it will be too late.

This year’s “Brave New Work” summit, run by SFU’s Public Square, examined the role that “work” will play in the future. In the talk Basic Income: Progressive Hopes and Neoliberal Realities, John Clarke, an anti-poverty organizer at the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty, discussed universal basic income (UBI), a form of income support. Responders were Jenna van Draanen, a UBC post-doctoral sociologist; Michal Rozworkski, a self-proclaimed ”lefty economist”; Trish Garner, a BC Poverty Reduction coalition activist with a PhD in gender, sexuality, and women’s studies; and Duane Fontaine, a SFU PhD candidate with a background in accounting.

Peel away all the layers of “how” and you get what it really means – and feels like – to live in poverty.

Loneliness, shame, alienation and hopelessness.

Ann Godderis still wells up as she recalls the raw emotion attached to feelings of isolation that 60+ low income locals – 38 men and 25 women – expressed during a meeting in Trail last week.

“It was the emotional content of the day that really affected me,” said Godderis, an event organizer. “There was no ‘blaming’ anybody, it was just how they felt. That sense of shame, guilt and of being cut out, not included.”

The County of Simcoe will be conducting an enumeration of the homeless population to determine the specific housing needs.

While this is the first enumeration mandated by the provincial government, the County conducted one in 2016. Looking at a sample size of 292 individuals experiencing homelessness.

The count, Doriano Calvano, manager of social policy and planning for the county, served to identify needed program changes in the housing sector.

The count also identified trends, namely that 22 per cent of homeless people in the county were Indigenous, and nearly one third were youths between the ages of 16 and 24.

“That’s why enumeration is important,” Calvano said. “It gives us a snapshot of what we’re seeing in the community and what we need to do.”

In the midst of a record-breaking cold snap, city staff were providing “incorrect” and “obsolete” information to people seeking emergency shelter at drop-in centres, the city’s ombudsman has concluded.

Susan Opler identified “serious shortcomings” in the intake and referral system for drop-ins, a service once described by a city councillor as a “Band-Aid on a Band-Aid,” in a city with a strained emergency shelter system and a dearth of affordable housing.

“What was originally intended as a temporary solution to meet demand for shelter has become a fixed part of the city’s response to homelessness,” wrote Opler, in a report posted online on Wednesday.

A basic income guarantee has been back in the news a lot lately, thanks to Mark Zuckerberg, Richard Branson, Elon Musk and other tech giants who have been publicly endorsing the concept.

But it’s not just talk in Canada.

Ontario is piloting a basic income across three cities, Quebec has brought in a basic income for those who have a limited capacity to work, and BC just set aside $4 million to investigate the feasibility of a basic income for the province in their recent budget – with other Canadian provinces and countries observing these measures closely. The Senate of Canada also passed a motion with cross partisan support to have the federal government consider a national basic income pilot project.