City of Kamloops says social plan update will identify priorities for community well-being

City to update social plan

City of Kamloops staff say a forthcoming update of its social plan will help the city identify new priorities for improving resident well-being, and will clarify the city’s role when it comes to addressing social issues.

Carmin Mazzotta, the city’s social, housing and community development manager, presented council with a report outlining the goals and timelines for the project.

The social plan is a document that lays out the city’s priorities and goals to enhance resident wellbeing — including topics like childcare, food security, substance use and mental health, and homelessness.

Mazzotta said the city’s current social plan was developed in 2009.

“The social planning and social development sector has evolved significantly since the time of the 2009 Kamloops social plan,” Mazzotta said.

“Social movements, advocacy and collective efforts related to truth and reconciliation to gender and identity — and more broadly to diversity and inclusion — have led to progressive social change and increased community awareness. At the same time, crises related to affordable housing, homelessness, the toxic drug supply and mental health and extreme climate events have placed significant strain on the social infrastructure of communities.”

Mazzotta said increasingly visible social issues have led to an expectation for municipalities to get involved.

He said municipalities in B.C. generally don’t have the mandate to build or operate social infrastructure assets — like affordable housing, treatment facilities, daycares or schools — but a city can work to facilitate and coordinate efforts to address social issues.

Mazzotta said the social plan will help to “clarify the city's social mandate and roles the city can and will play in addressing social issues in the community.”

“It has become increasingly important to not only understand where the gaps in social infrastructure are — to know where to target or advocate for resources — but it is also important to clarify the city's mandate and role in the social sector moving forward,” Mazzotta said.

He said the social plan review will begin with a data review and mapping of all spaces, places and programs that provide health or social services for the whole community.

Next, city staff will look to ask residents how they want the community’s social services to develop.

Mazzotta said staff are looking to start public engagement later this fall and over the winter, with a draft plan developed over late spring and summer 2023.

He said the goal is to present a final plan to council for adoption at the end of 2023.

Coun. Bill Sarai said he hopes to see the city work with neighbourhood associations to get feedback. He suggested the city also seek input from students in grades 11 and 12.

“Getting out to the public, in the associations and in the neighbourhoods, and maybe that educational piece will go a long ways. …If we go to them, it'll make a big difference,” Sarai said.

Coun. Denis Walsh asked if city staff have the capacity to take on a social plan review.

“To me, we're in a social crisis right now. And I don't see it getting better with inflation knocking on our door. I'm worried that this is going to take away a lot of your resources to redo this social plan,” Walsh said.

Mazzotta said the amount of planning work “ebbs and flows” depending on where staff are at in the process.

He said they are hoping to hire consultants to do some of this work, and $25,000 in provincial grant funding awarded to the city will help with this cost.

According to the city, an additional $57,000 in council-approved funding has been set aside to support the plan update work.

Mazzotta said it was important to plan how the city’s responses to social issues will look like in the future.

“There's urgent response. And we need to continue on that, because that's the crisis. But we also need to be doing long term planning to mitigate and do more preventative work, do more upstream work,” Mazzotta said.

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