Local government can help poverty stricken with access to recreation facilities

Recent support for low income families is very helpful, but more is needed.

  • Jun. 2, 2012 8:00 a.m.

According to a recent article in the Trail Times re the Skool Aid project, at least 112 students from the Greater Trail needed a donation of basic school supplies so they could be fully prepared for the beginning of the school year.

In the face of the total inadequacy of government support for low income families, there is no question this project is a very helpful and needed response from our generous community.

However, it is obvious that more action is urgently required if people of all ages living on very low incomes are going to have a chance to lead healthy, productive and hope-filled lives.

We suggest there is something that local government could do right now that would make a huge difference for residents.  And, the best part is it wouldn’t cost the municipalities one extra penny (or make that a nickel).

Communities in the Greater Trail area could follow the lead of Castlegar, Nelson, Creston, Revelstoke, Prince George, Vancouver, Mission, Surrey and numerous other municipalities and set up a “Leisure Access Program” or its equivalent though their recreation departments.

Each year, in these communities, individuals and families trying to survive on below the poverty line incomes go through a simple application process and are given free or low cost access to swimming and skating facilities as well as to other recreation programs. Depending on the municipality, fees vary from  no-charge to a 50 per cent – 75 per cent reduction, the basic idea being that every resident has access to recreation they otherwise couldn’t possibly afford.

We all know that being physically active is a really good way to help us out of depression, children need to be able to play with their peers at the swimming pool and ice-rink, older people with arthritis and other disabilities benefit hugely from a soak in a warm pool or an aqua-fit program …the list goes on and on.

The best part of this program is that it is essentially no-extra-cost. Without extra help, people living on low incomes don’t use the recreational facilities and programs anyway, so giving them access isn’t going to cost government any lost fees.

So how about it?  Wouldn’t it be great if every child, no matter their parent’s income could take part in recreation programs and go swimming with their friends in the pool this summer? And it would be a huge gift for women in the Transition House and Nova Vita Programs to be able to use the facilities in the gym on a regular basis. And what a great way to help us become truly family and senior friendly communities.  Revelstoke does it as part of their extraordinary efforts to foster healthy children. Why not us??

Google BC Leisure Access programs to get an idea of the variety of possibilities throughout the province and then let us know what you think. Contact us through winsthoutreach@shaw.ca or leave a message with Keith Simmonds at: 250-368-5411. Better still, contact a City Council member and ask them to find out what their neighbouring municipalities are doing…

Thanks for listening

Ann Godderis

for the Trail Area Poor No More Group.