Poverty flagged in Vital Signs report

NANAIMO – Report collected survey results from community and statistics from city, province and Island Health.

Nanaimo’s first Vital Signs annual checkup was released Tuesday and according to the report, poverty is an issue that concerns residents.

Compiled in partnership with the Nanaimo Foundation, United Way, City of Nanaimo and Island Savings, Vital Signs identifies trends and measures the health of Nanaimo.

Between July and August, more than 900 respondents took part in a survey providing letter grades to a number of Nanaimo areas. The study also included the most current statistics from such organizations as Statistics Canada, the province, the city and Island Health.

The study showed that 38.2 per cent of residents were not earning a living wage as of 2010, and 17.3 per cent of Nanaimoites had incomes below the after-tax poverty rate as of 2012.

Additionally, the gap between rich and poor received one of the lowest grades with a C-.

Tim Mawdsley, chairman of Nanaimo Vital Signs, said despite the low grade, the aim of the report is to raise awareness.

“If that starts discussions around Nanaimo on what’s going on and how we can effect positive change, that’s exactly what Vital Signs is for from a foundation perspective and the foundation also uses it to guide us on our giving in the community and where can we effect the greatest change with the limited number of dollars that we have,” Mawdsley said.

Signy Madden, executive director of the Nanaimo-area United Way, said poverty problems can’t be addressed overnight.

“From the United Way’s side, what we’ve got to look at is the vulnerable kids, the [newborn] to five years old,” said Madden. “You can’t give people money and that’s not our job, but I think our job is we have to make sure we fund programs that are helping the kids who are the most vulnerable.”

The full report can be viewed at www.nanaimo