Report reflects Nanaimo community health

NANAIMO – Vital Signs report gives grades to aspects of Nanaimo.

The Nanaimo Foundation released its second annual Vital Signs report Tuesday.

The report focuses on 10 areas that indicate the vitality and overall health of the community, using data compiled with help from Community Foundations of Canada, the Centre for the Study of Living and Statistics Canada and other local, provincial and national sources, plus responses from residents to an online survey.

The report compares the compiled statistics to responses, given in letter grades, from Nanaimo residents in an online survey on how people perceive such areas as safety and security, the gap between rich and poor, education and health and wellness.

The more than 600 respondents gave a C-minus grade, for instance, on housing in Nanaimo, a B-minus on culture and a C-plus on the local environment.

“We don’t do the report really with any anticipation of what might come out of it,” said Tim Mawdsley, Nanaimo Foundation chairman. “We were a little surprised at the lower grades because there are a lot of positives in here, but we can also see where the data has identified, ‘this needs some focus,’ and that’s what it’s all about, a celebration as well as, ‘this needs focus.’”

Signy Madden, United Way Central and Northern Vancouver Island executive director, noted a six-per cent, year-to-year uptick in youth violent crime, which she said is concerning when Nanaimo’s overall crime rate is falling.

“Not that crime is always related to mental health issues, but we’re seeing across the board as social service providers that there’s more young people that are suffering depression,” Madden said. “Anxiety is a big one, and so a lot of what United Way is funding this year and funding a lot more of next year, is how do we support teens? How do we support young people so they’re getting treatment or they’ve got peer supports?”

John Horn, city social planner, noted rental housing is cheaper in Nanaimo, compared to Victoria or Vancouver, but the report also brought to light that renters here pay a higher percentage of their incomes to rent than in other cities.

“There’s two stories going on in parallel,” Horn said. “One is that we’re in relatively good shape compared to our big city neighbours … but also recognizing that maybe the wages in our community are not as high as in Vancouver and Victoria so that we have a lot of folks who are struggling to pay the rent in Nanaimo even though it is cheaper.”

Mawdsley said the report is for everyone and finds a wide range of uses with various agencies, including the United Way, to direct attention to specific issues. The report also helps raise awareness about the foundation and the services it offers to the community.

“It’s great data for the Nanaimo Foundation, as well, to help steer our donors as well and steer where our money is going,” he said.

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