Ending poverty in Surrey may be a monumental undertaking, but the title of Surrey's new poverty reduction plan announced on Monday shows the city aims to do just that.
Surrey Mayor Dianne Watts, Coun. Judy Villenueve and Minister for Children and Family Development Mary McNeil were on hand at the Timber Grove Apartments supportive housing complex in Surrey Monday afternoon to launch the comprehensive plan titled "This Is How We End Poverty."
The plan, which has been two years in the making, outlines four key themes that its creators believe will be the foundations for improving poverty in Surrey - transportation, housing, income and support.
"This is really going to give us a solid foundation to work from and establish benchmarks to take care of the vulnerable people in our community," said Villeneuve, who was one of the driving forces behind the plan.
Outlined in the plan are 19 priorities and 75 recommendations that range from advocating for improved transportation infrastructure to increased access for affordable housing and post-secondary education.
"We know that transportation and housing costs are two of the biggest costs that people face so if we could get more affordable housing built and some decent public transit, that is going to make a difference in the lives of people," Villeneuve said.
According to data in the plan, one in five Surrey residents lives in poverty - this equates to about 71,000 people.
Single-parent families, people with disabilities, recent immigrants and refugees, one person households and Aboriginal people are overrepresented among those living in poverty, states the report.
Villeneuve said one of the major outcomes of the report was identifying what the city and other levels of government have been doing well - such as the federal tax credit.
While Surrey's population is growing by close to 1,000 people per month, said Villeneuve, the things the city is doing are making sure that poverty does not grow.
But Villeneuve admits this is just a stepping stone and there is much work that needs to be done.
The plan also indicates a need for greater aid from the provincial and federal governments to end poverty - not just in Surrey but in communities across the country.
Villeneuve said the city wants to take action now and hopes that by putting together such a comprehensive plan it will be able to bypass any more consultation with the provincial government and move forward.
"The provincial government is just now starting to do some pilot projects on the poverty issue in order to look at putting together a plan but we really don't want to have to wait for all that because we are in place and ready to go," she said.
McNeil echoed these sentiments during Monday's press conference, stating the province wants to move forward as well.
"From the province's point of view, we want to get together some action plans and actually start working with individual families in the fall," McNeil said.
The plan was developed in partnership between Vibrant Surrey, the City of Surrey, the Surrey Homelessness and Housing Society, the Surrey Homelessness and Housing Task Force, Kwantlen Polytechnic University, SPARC BC and the Fraser Health Authority.