By Kate Thompson
The Victoria Foundation is one of 35 community foundations across the country that take part in publishing an annual “Vital Signs” report taking a look at how you and I see our community. This year’s report confirms much of what we already know, we do like living here and yes, it is expensive.
The annual surveys provide a look at what a cross-section of almost 1,200 Victorians view as the issues that need to be addressed and areas where we can try and make changes in our own community. This year the report includes a section on Youth response, food security and more responses to subjective queries such as: “Are you happy?” Apparently, 89 per cent of respondents are happy, an excellent reflection on life in Victoria.
“Vital Signs” is a snapshot of life in our town published by the Victoria Foundation and its partners to highlight community concerns and identify the areas where the community, you and I, can help by volunteering, advocating, donating or raising funds.
Food Security is a new addition to the Vital Signs reports this year. Access to food, locally grown food, the cost of food and the cost of producing food are briefly addressed in the report. We all know there is more pressure on agricultural lands every year as development increases the demand for land in this desirable corner of our country. The cost of running a farm is always increasing and the returns are less and less. The CRD tells us local agriculture is at risk. Defenders will claim the proliferation of farm markets and buy local programs is helping, it may not be enough, and farm receipts are down 6 per cent. Add the fact that the average farmer in the Victoria area is 54 years old and the future of local agriculture and farm-to-table food may look considerably different.
There are a number of organizations and information sources cited in the report, including West Shore Harvest and LifeCycle’s Growing Schools and the urban agricultural programs they offer the public. Two pilot urban agricultural pilot projects are mentioned, the planting of fruit trees in parks around Fairfield and Vic West this fall, and plans to turn the garden in front of the Fairfield Community Centre into a kitchen garden.
The report doesn’t offer answers, it is meant to generate interest and support for the areas identified. Number one on the top ten issues list is the cost of living, followed by mental illness and housing in the third spot. The top ten includes health care, amalgamation, transportation, employment, eldercare and the economy among others. None of these come as a surprise; instead they are reminders that we all face the same concerns in one way or another.
A section on Arts and culture is included. Statistics from various sources tell us that while there has been a slight decrease in the number of people earning a living as artists in Victoria, there is still a greater percentage of artists living and working in Victoria than anywhere else in the province. There has been an increase in the number of people employed in cultural industries overall, an area that includes publishing on paper and online, film, broadcasting, spectator sports and heritage.
By varying degrees, up to 18 per cent of the respondents were not comfortable in this community. Religion, ethnicity, race, language, gender and sexual orientation were cited as barriers.
Each section of the report includes a “Response” or action taken by the Victoria Foundation and its partners to ‘respond’ to the issues identified. For instance, under “Economy”, the Foundation is working with Island Savings, a co-sponsor, to provide access to short-term loans for up to 36-months in these uncertain times for local charities. The Foundation funded a six-month pilot program to assist the street community by opening Our Place for lunch on the weekends, an initial success that expanded to provide access to showers, recreation, training and nutrition in a Sunday drop-in program, effectively aiding in improving the health of the community.
The majority of those responding in the online-survey are content with their lives. 88 per cent of those 55 and older hardly ever felt lonely, the same cannot be said for the younger set of 20 to 24 year olds, a full one third of whom felt lonely (no mention of hormones or attribution is included). 68 per cent of us are satisfied with our work-life balance, something that speaks volumes in a town where government is the largest employer, employing nearly double the numbers of the second largest group, defence.
The Housing statistics cited for seniors don’t contain any surprising news. CMHC numbers for 2013 show the vacancy rate for independent living suites has decreased by 1.5 per cent since 2012 to 11.1 per cent and the average monthly cost was up 1.4 per cent to $3,159. Average rents for private apartments continue to rise as do the numbers on waiting lists for social housing for seniors.
Under Transportation, door-to-door services are identified as the single most requested service for seniors. Vital Signs reports 3,000 clients receive services and up to 9,000 rides are provided by volunteer drivers with various community agencies.
This eighth annual report also looks at other community indicators such as health, safety, sports and recreation, learning and more. This year’s report also includes a Youth Vital Signs in addition to the Food Security section.
You may want to take some time and read the information for yourself. There are numerous statistics and subjective reporting observations that may help you decide where you would like to lend a hand or add your voice. The 38-page report on the survey results is an interesting way to revisit your own community. Previous reports are also available on the site.
For the full Victoria Foundation Vital Signs report: