Central Okanagan Poverty and Wellness Strategy

Challenging the cycle of poverty and addressing community health and well-being.

The Central Okanagan has begun the journey towards the development and implementation of a regional Community Poverty and Wellness Strategy (COPAWS). This strategy will identify priority areas of action to improve community wellness and decrease poverty, while engaging and empowering each community in the region to take action on their local priorities.

This work is made possible through a grant from the Union of BC Municipalities, applied for in partnership with the Regional District of the Central Okanagan on behalf of the District of Lake Country, District of Peachland, City of Kelowna and City of West Kelowna.

How Can I Get Involved?

The Central Okanagan Poverty and Wellness Strategy (COPAWS) is seeking members of the community who have experience living in poverty to tell us more about your experiences. We need your help to gather diverse experiences of what is working and what is not working in our communities to alleviate and eliminate poverty. You can help us by taking part in our survey:

Take the Lived Experience Survey – have you lived in poverty, or are you currently experiencing difficulties not only with income but also with health and well-being? Let us hear your voice on your experiences. You can answer our survey below.

We can also provide different access options for people with disabilities, English as a second language, low literacy levels or limited access to technology through our volunteer Community Action Teams.

Other ways of helping with the Lived Experience survey – Do you know people who you think should be heard on this issue? Do you have time to volunteer and provide access to people who may struggle to complete the survey by themselves?

Need more information? Get in touch with us!

Who will work on this initiative?

A Leadership Committee formed from a diverse group of community partners, local governments, key stakeholders and citizens will be shaping the implementation and evaluation framework.

Community Engagement sessions led by the Community Action Teams will identify the work to be done and propose recommendations to the Leadership Committee.

This work will:

  • Identify priority areas of action through research, local government strategies and community engagement
  • Embed the TogetherBC guiding principles of Accountability, Reconciliation, Social Inclusion and Opportunity
  • Empower each community in the region to create change on their local priorities
  • Build community awareness and understanding of the challenges faced by some in our communities

Why a Poverty and Wellness Strategy?

The available wellness and poverty data and insights for the Central Okanagan paint a challenging picture for many children, families and individuals who call our region home. Choosing between putting food on the table or paying rent is a monthly reality for many, and the stigma associated with poverty means people may hide their current situation. Our neighbours, friends and colleagues are isolated and silently struggling to make ends meet, a situation that has been made even worse by the COVID-19 pandemic.

There is a great deal of work being done by multiple non-profit organizations, municipalities and First Nation governments to address the symptoms of poverty. This funding is an opportunity for this region to divert and prevent poverty in the first place. From existing best practices in place across communities in Canada, this Strategy is aiming to develop systems changes that will create the most appropriate and sustainable impact for our region.

By the numbers

  • Poverty costs the BC government approximately $8.1-$9.2 billion per year through healthcare, family and foster care services, the criminal justice system, Employment Assistance programs, housing subsidy programs and food subsidies.
  • 15% of Central Okanagan residents currently live in poverty (A rate that jumps to almost 50% for lone-parent families)
  • 17% of children are living in poverty.
  • 1 in 4 Central Okanagan renters are currently living in housing that is inadequate, unaffordable or not sustainable.
  • At least 376 people are experiencing homelessness in our communities.

Through consultations, our community has identified the need for a regional approach to complex social issues. A regional approach can build on existing work in the Central Okanagan, while also ensuring each community can still address their unique needs and priorities. Community wellness and poverty impacts us all, and a regional strategy will provide opportunities for our neighbors and fellow community members to thrive.

Join us in moving the Central Okanagan from poverty to possibility!

Stay Informed

Want to stay updated on the strategy development project, community engagement events and opportunities to get involved? Join the Poverty and Wellness Network by signing up here!


  • Community Action Teams (Spring 2021): Representing specific priority and focus areas of the Wellness and Poverty Strategy, these teams of local businesses, organizations and community members will provide critical knowledge and expertise in areas such as youth wellness, equity and inclusion, housing and homelessness, transportation, childcare, employment, food security and community engagement.
  • Engagement Sessions (Spring 2021 – Summer 2021): Opportunities for discussion, strategy development and feedback around wellness and poverty in your community
  • Online Survey (Spring/Summer 2021)

For more information, contact Naomi Woodland, Community Impact and Poverty Reduction Manager by calling 250-860-2356 or emailing: naomi@unitedwaysibc.com.

Community Partners

We are grateful to the Union of BC Municipalities and the Regional District of the Central Okanagan for the funding to drive this initiative and to our civic partners for collaborating with us.

A ladle pours soup into a bowl held in a hand over a pot.

Background on Wellness and Poverty Work in the Central Okanagan

In 2017, the Central Okanagan Poverty Reduction Committee (COPRC) was established with the goal of developing a regional poverty reduction strategy with an upstream focus. Supported by funding from the Vancouver Foundation and the Central Okanagan Early Years Partnership, the committee set the stage for a community-driven, regional approach to addressing poverty. The COPRC gathered insights from families with lived experience of poverty, provided a systems planning workshop and developed a work plan to guide strategy development. They also acquired funding for a Community Wellness Analysis in 2020, informed by lived experience and engagement from stakeholders across the region.

This analysis has provided key insights and baseline data about wellness and poverty in the region and served as a launching point to the development of a Central Okanagan Wellness and Poverty Strategy.

For more information on this work, click here.

Latest News

This just in…BC Period Poverty Research Released

March 10th, 2021|0 Comments

https://www.uwlm.ca/news/period-poverty-research-released/ Download Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction Media Release Related news: United Way is prepping for our Period Promise collection – are you ready? https://www.periodpromise.ca/blogs/news/united-way-is-prepping-for-our-period-promise-collection-are-you-ready For more information on the Period Promise campaign

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