Gabriola families identify priorities for moving forward

Derek Kilbourn

Sounder News

Tuesday, April 24 2018

On Sunday, April 15, fifteen Gabriola parents attended a workshop hosted by the Gabriola Health and Wellness Collaborative.

One hundred forty-four families had completed the family wellbeing survey – the first stage of the family project sponsored by the collaborative.

Collaborative member Dyan Dunsmoor-Farley provided a summary of what the parents came up with based on the survey results and their own discussions.

“Gabriola families have told us about the challenges they face and given us an array of ideas to explore. Some of the ideas presented can be done easily; others will take a significant effort involving the entire community.”

The collaborative met with the parents to establish what actions they - the parents - thought should be prioritized. 

Of the eight action areas, the families attending the workshop asked the collaborative to prioritize in five areas. 

Those are outlined along with the actions that families asked the collaborative to focus on. 

1. Housing

a. Increase the availability of affordable, secure long-term rentals

b. Create more housing options for families including allowing additional densities for small homes (i.e., less than 1000 square feet) on properties over five acres

2. More support services for children, youth and families

a. Create a range of affordable, quality child care options serving children from infants through school-age

b. Provide access to affordable, accessible mental health and general counselling services (e.g., parenting teens) in individual and group settings

c. Create more opportunities for whole family events

d. Provide supports to children and youth with developmental disabilities (e.g., Strong Start through the Nanaimo School District)

e. Increase post-partum supports

f. Provide affordable extended health services (e.g., dental and optical)

3. More affordable recreation opportunities

a. A recreation centre with a pool, indoor play space and more public hangout spaces for all ages

b. Increased access to Gabriola Elementary School gym by seeking Community School status.

4. Create a more robust economy

a. Implement a strategy to create living wage, full-year/full-time jobs on Gabriola

b. More training and upgrading opportunities including formal and informal apprenticeships

5. Improved transportation

a. Increase ferry capacity

b. Reduce fares (e.g., more flexibility for free ferry rides for kids’ activities off island, and free ferries for all kids in public school

c. Implement better pedestrian, cycling and stroller options

d. Enhance GERTIE service

Dunsmoor-Farley said the collaborative will convene on May 9 to develop an action plan to address the priority issues and actions identified by families. 

“It is very important that families continue to have a voice in shaping the action plan and guiding its implementation. 

“Seven parents stepped forward to act as a family advisory. Their input will be sought as we develop and implement strategies to address the priorities identified above.”

The survey results reflected a slightly different order of priorities than those of the workshop participants.

Dunsmoor-Farley said the #1 response from the survey was the need for mental health and enhanced physical health services.

“People talked about the need for counselling, the need for more information to access groups and supports. You could sense when you read it that there is a lack of knowledge about what is currently available. People are looking for counselling, they are looking for advice on supporting their children; on their spouse misusing substances; to living with someone with a development disability; to ‘I have no supports.’ Across the spectrum.”

The #2 response was a need for more support services for children, youth and families. 

“We need more child care, need more flexible child care options, need more drop-ins, and places you can go with toddlers. Parenting classes that offer child care. A big need for the focus on the need for child care.

“There is good news with the expansion of the HOPE Centre, the need for more programming like that. 

“There is a need for support groups for social connection. People want to engage with their peers, explore the issues they are facing, and [they want]concrete support services to help them through the transitions around parenting, separation and divorce, and domestic violence. 

“And we have to build with people, not for people. It’s not enough to have those priorities - families need to govern these activities.”

#3 “People are desperate for enhanced recreational opportunities - particularly for the kids. But also for themselves. ‘Enhanced recreational’ means, people talked about some kind of place, an indoor play area, in the winter. You can get your kids outside, but it would be nice to have an indoor area too. A community recreation facility.”

#4 “People wanted improved transportation opportunities - mostly it focused on things like reducing ferry fares; better ferry scheduling; improved pedestrian and cyclist options. Walk through the Village and ride a bicycle in safety. And GERTIE enhancements.”

#5 “The economy. People were asked if they frequently or occasionally had issues finding a job that pays a living wage, or finding a job period. Finding a job that provides benefits; what kinds of trouble they had with housing; trouble with food security. When the questions drill down on the economic side, it reaffirmed what the challenges are of a diversified, predominantly tourist-focused economy are: low paying jobs, seasonal jobs, and people who are constantly trying to put jobs together.” 

Dunsmoor-Farley added, “People want a more robust economy that is not dependent on tourism or other low-paying jobs. They want living wage jobs.”

She pointed to the relationship of the recreation facility opportunities to a robust and diverse economy.

“There is a direct link. If you have the facilities...you will be more attractive to people who are knowledge workers, who can operate from Gabriola with a minimal footprint - so the pieces of this puzzle need to be thought of together.

“Economy is not stand-alone. It has to be supported. You have to have the appropriate infrastructure, and we’re not talking lighting and sewers and community water. 

“You are looking at services that bring people to the community.”

#6 Housing. Dunsmoor-Farley said the issue is huge, “but in most people’s minds, it’s a given that it is a problem. If we can’t tackle the wage problem, and the full-year job problem, you can’t solve the housing problem, because you’re fighting fires on so many fronts. 

“With a decent job, you can engage in buying a house, or affording a more expensive rental, so housing was identified.”

#7 “Food security.”

#8 “Enhanced educational opportunities on the island. Things like the challenges of kids going to high school, or changing the elementary school to a four-day week, or finding opportunities for adult education and job training.”