SURREY First on Thursday unveiled its strategy to strengthen supports for vulnerable groups, including the homeless and people with mental health and addictions issues.
“Surrey First believes that everyone deserve a healthy quality of life,” said mayoral candidate Linda Hepner. “A strong social support system that addresses the needs of the most vulnerable is a core component of Surrey’s values, and our Surrey First strategy takes the next step in providing housing and support for vulnerable groups as we build off of a number of city initiatives, including the Social Plan, and the Housing the Homeless Master Plan and the Poverty Reduction Strategy.”
The 2014 Metro Vancouver Homeless count found a Surrey homeless population of 403, which represented no growth from 2008 despite significant growth in the overall population. Surrey First created a five-year plan to build 450 supportive housing units to ensure a home for every homeless resident, a new purpose-built facility to replace the Gateway shelter in City Centre, enhanced supportive housing, shelter and drop-in services for those with unique needs, and strengthened partnerships with BC Housing, the Fraser Health Authority, and the Surrey Homeless and Housing Society.
Today Surrey First committed to completing the planned 450 supportive housing units by 2017 and building a purpose-built Gateway replacement shelter, protecting existing rental stock, creating tax incentives for new rental projects, and working with the city-owned Surrey City Development Corporation to create co-op housing and a Land Trust for Affordable Homes. In addition, Surrey First will work with the federal government to create an Immigrant Partnership Council to address the unique needs of newcomers to Surrey in a coordinated, comprehensive fashion.
Surrey First also introduced a $1 million initiative aimed at bringing an innovative, entrepreneurial approach to social issues. A city-hosted Social Innovation Summit in 2015 will bring together leading thinkers on new ways of addressing social issues. A new five-year Centre of Excellence commitment will launch pilot projects that help promote innovate new approaches to mental health and addictions, and a $300,000 matching fund will support investment in social enterprises.
In addition, Surrey First will grant a five-year property tax holiday for non-profit social ventures, a new hybrid structure set up by the BC government that combines for-profit market financing with non-profit social and environmental aims.