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 by 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.

COPAWS Development Update

Thank you for your interest in the development of the first Central Okanagan Poverty and Wellness Strategy (COPAWS).

While the work to date has been going well, our team has encountered a number of challenges causing recent delays. United Way, RDCO, and partnering communities have agreed to temporarily pause work until there is a full understanding of the impact and there are updated plans in place to move forward. This will impact the overall project timeline, so we wanted to provide an update on progress and next steps. Below is a summary.

Work completed
Engagement for the strategy is underway and completed work includes:
• Development of the overall engagement plan for the project
• Digital survey of participants who have lived experience with poverty – over 225 surveys have been completed to date
• Initiation of small focus groups to gather feedback via our service providers and partner organizations

Some of the scheduled engagement activities over the summer will be delayed. This is due to changes in the communities that we work to deliver the project. Specifically:
• The United Way’s recent amalgamation of six United Ways in British Columbia (now called United Way British Columbia) has required a restructuring of United Way staff – this transition is underway but not yet complete
• Ongoing challenges due to COVID have made it difficult to undertake the in-person engagement necessary to get the input needed
• The profound grief our indigenous partners and community members are experiencing due to confirmation of grave sites at former residential schools has understandably taken priority over engagement activities

Next Steps
• Meeting set for July with restructured United Way British Columbia staff, the RDCO, and partnering communities to re-establish the timeline and budget for the outstanding work – this will include the introduction of United Way’s Director of Poverty Reduction who has completed a number of poverty strategies in the lower mainland and on Vancouver Island
• When appropriate, United Way British Columbia will collaborate with Alderhill Planning Inc. (contracted consultants) to restart Indigenous engagement
• Further update COPAWS partners later this summer when timelines and work plan has been re-established

We have received a grant extension for this work from UBCM until May 2022 to enable us to respond to challenges noted above.

Need more information? Get in touch with us at info@uwbc.ca or call 1-855-232-1321.

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 COVID19 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 Regional District of the Central Okanagan for the funding to drive this initiative and to our civic partners for collaborating with us.

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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