Community Stories

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What does community engagement look like when inclusion is the top priority? It’s a question that the Township of Langley (the Township) set out to answer in 2018, as they began public consultations for the development of a new Social Sustainability Strategy

Sticking to a gym regime can be a workout all on its own. But living on an island that has little infrastructure to support physical activity takes the challenge to a whole other level. Building multi-use trails was one community’s innovative solution to create more recreational opportunities for its island residents.

Participation in recreational activities with peers is critical to youth development and building healthy lifestyles. But for youth growing up in rural west coast communities like those in and around Tofino and Ucluelet, opportunities to connect and engage with peers are not always possible.

Born in Singapore and having spent many years living in a “vertical village,” Francis Heng has seen firsthand how communities can flourish in high-rises. But when they first arrived in Vancouver 17 years ago, Heng experienced culture shock. In contrast to their hometown where high-rise living is the norm, they sensed building residents in Vancouver didn’t talk to each other.

“That was really strange for me,” Heng describes. “I saw a lot people were very shy and afraid to talk to their neighbours.”

Houses in the community of Sayward in Strathcona Regional District.

In early 2019, Campbell River announced a partnership with BC Housing to create 50 units of supportive housing in the City within two years. To members of the Strathcona Community Health Network, the announcement was an achievement resulting from years of efforts to demonstrate the need for adequate and appropriate housing in the region, including the development of an equity-focused Housing Needs Assessment.

More and more, local governments in BC and beyond are appointing social planners to focus specifically on improving the well-being of their community members. In 2016, the City of Delta made the decision to create a social planner position to assess the social needs of the community and develop a Social Action Plan to address them. Gillian McLeod, a former librarian with a 30-year career in the public service, was up to the task.

A view of downtown Campbell River.

In a pivotal move to address housing challenges in Strathcona Regional District, the City of Campbell River has announced that they will support the hiring of a coordinator for the Campbell River Coalition to End Homelessness.

The City is providing one-time funding of $10,000 for the coordinator position, which will provide the Coalition with capacity to develop a strategic plan and explore potential funding opportunities for affordable housing and housing-related initiatives in the region.

Communities are experts in their own health challenges, says Hughes. In her role with Northern Health, she collaborates with community members across the Health Authority to enable access to  the information and resources they need to support their health and well-being.

“Northern B.C. was probably the last place I ever thought I would be,” says Holly Hughes, a healthy settings advisor with Northern Health. “Honestly, since I moved here, I've kind of fallen in love with it.”

Missing middle housing includes housing structures with a density between that of single family homes and mid-rise buildings, such as duplexes, triplexes, and townhouses.

Social well-being is a significant component of overall health and well-being. The homes we live in play a substantial role in shaping our mental and social well-being, and the way we design homes can promote—or impede—social connectedness, inclusion and trust between neighbours.[i][ii] To guide the implementation of their Official Community Plan, the Township of Esquimalt is developing a set of policy guidelines for the design of low-rise multi-family (or “missing middle”) housing, with the aim of enhancing the social well-being of those living in these housing types.

In the last six years, two local studies have both found that many citizens of the Lower Mainland experience loneliness and isolation. Social isolation is a serious health risk in communities; in fact, engaging in a social activity such as joining a club can reduce a persons’ chance of death by 50% in the first year—the same impact as quitting smoking.[1]

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