What is Poverty Reduction?

Published: November 16, 2023

At Family Services of Greater Vancouver, we often talk about the work we do in “poverty reduction.” But what does this really mean? There are a few definitions of what it means to live in poverty, from Canada’s Low Income Measure (LIM) thresholds to living wage. However, not qualifying as a “low income” household or making the living wage don’t mean that someone is thriving. In fact, these measure often only identify the people who are struggling the most, which is certainly important to know. But there are so many people who make a living wage or don’t meet the LIM thresholds who are barely making ends meet and facing the impacts of poverty on their mental, emotional, social, and physical health. 

At its core, poverty reduction is about reducing (and eliminating) poverty and the impacts it has on people and communities. From nearly 100 years of supporting people in poverty, we know first-hand that it disproportionately affects racialized people, queer folks, newcomers, and other marginalized groups. We’ve found that the most effective approaches to poverty reduction are intersectional, trauma-informed, and non-judgmental. The solutions need to put people first. 

We run several programs that work to address some of the root causes of poverty, including limited access to education, (mental) healthcare, employment, and economic opportunities. In Trauma Counselling, all of our programs are available for free. This gives people who might not otherwise have the chance to meet regularly with a counsellor the chance to work on addressing traumas and healing. In Directions Youth Servicesmost of the programs are aligned with poverty reduction strategies: connecting youth to jobs, housing, education opportunities, healthcare services, and more.

One of the most obvious ways FSGV works in poverty reduction is through our Financial Empowerment program. FE’s entire goal is to help people make the most of their money. At the core, we’re trying to educate people on strategies for being financially stable. We don’t mean that people can simply budget their way out of poverty – absolutely not. At the same time, we do believe that people are not all given the same kinds of financial education and it’s most often marginalized folks who aren’t getting the information they need. This is why we offer financial workshops and one-on-one coaching in several languages, including English, French, Vietnamese, Cantonese, Spanish, and Farsi.

We work with people to learn how to budget, yes, because so many things that can be taken as ‘basics’ aren’t actually something that everyone has had the chance to learn. Beyond budgeting though, we teach people about consumerism, navigating money conversations in relationships, setting financial goals, and saving and investing for the future. In our coaching sessions, we often work with people to help them navigate filing taxes and accessing benefits.

Benefits help increase the amount of money people have coming in to meet their basic needs. We see time and time again that having enough supplemental money to cover housing and food costs frees people up to focus on their futures: continuing education, career goals, and more. We know that there are very real barriers in people’s way; it’s no coincidence that people who are already marginalized experience higher rates of poverty. This is why the services we provide are people-centered. We look at what barriers they’re facing, whether it’s language, understanding the financial institutions, or others and we work with them to make a customized plan of action. Then, step by step we walk alongside them to get them where they want to be. When we help people in crisis reach a place of stability, we make sure they have a solid foundation to start building their brighter tomorrows. They get to switch from surviving to thriving. 

So, when we say FSGV does poverty reduction, we’re taking a look at the big picture, we’re taking a look at the root causes, and we’re working with people so they are part of the solution. We believe that as society works to reduce poverty, we’re not only enhancing the lives of those who are directly affected but we are creating a brighter tomorrow for the whole community.