Poverty is not readily apparent in Delta, however, it’s certainly a disproportionate fact of life for many in the community.
That’s according to a recent report to council on the Delta Poverty Reduction Action Plan, which contains recommendations that are to be incorporated into Delta's Social Action Plan.
The report notes that while Delta is a relatively affluent community, with a smaller proportion of low-income residents than that of Metro Vancouver, higher average annual household incomes, fewer homeless people, and a lower crime rate, pockets of poverty do exist throughout the city.
It impacts a disproportionate number of seniors, youth, immigrants, Indigenous residents and people with disabilities.
Current estimates show that around 10,000 people in Delta live below the poverty line (about 10 per cent). That number increases to 14 per cent for visible minority groups and 30 per cent for recent immigrants. Those groups are especially vulnerable during this period of high inflation and the rising cost of living.
There has also in the last 10 years been a significant increase in Delta households on the BC Housing waitlist.
According to the Delta Housing Needs Assessment, more than 30 per cent of renter households were identified as being within a core housing need in Delta, compared to seven per cent for homeowners in Delta.
In the last decade, there has also been an increase in residents who are on the BC Employment and Assistance Program.
The Poverty Action Plan document notes that hidden poverty is by nature difficult to address due to a lack of understanding of who is being affected and the barriers they face.
Housing is unaffordable and inappropriate for many, particularly renters and those with large families, the document states, while racism and discrimination magnifies the impacts of poverty and is the experience of many Indigenous and racialized residents of Delta.
The document also notes that Delta being divided into three separate communities makes things more challenging for people who are struggling to make ends meet to access the services they need.
“It also makes it a challenge for service providers, who would like to serve all of Delta, but often end up focusing on either South Delta (Ladner and Tsawwassen) or North Delta. There are also inequities inherent in that separation. North Delta is the more culturally diverse of the three communities, yet residents note inequities within the community compared to Ladner and Tsawwassen. One focus group participant noted that unlike Tsawwassen and Ladner, North Delta has few natural community meeting spaces,” the document explains.
“In addition, residents of North Delta are expected to go to Surrey to access some services, which makes it difficult to justify the need for enhanced services for North Delta.”
A Delta staff report highlights several actions the city is already undertaking to support vulnerable populations, including providing $1 million in annual funding to community organizations to support children, youth, families and seniors, as well as looking into food insecurity including a goal of establishing a food bank in North Delta.
However, resident and community partner feedback found that many respondents reported struggling with the interrelated concerns of housing, public transportation, food security and access to childcare.
In a recent presentation to council, Lavleen Sahota, Community Health and Equity Consultant, and Victoria Barr, Principal of LevelUp Planning Collaborative, explained that an “equity lens” as used to come up with the series of recommended actions.
Those actions include creating hubs where youth and new immigrants can access services.
The Delta staff report notes the plan recommends an emphasis on understanding the root causes of poverty and a focus on systemic changes, in addition to short-term emergency supports.
“Through the development, approval and implementation of Delta's Social Action Plan, and the formation of advisory committees addressing diversity, inclusion and anti-racism issues, Mayor and Council have already demonstrated a strong commitment to addressing the needs of vulnerable people in Delta and making the community more inclusive and equitable,” the report notes.
Among the other actions is having strong partnerships.
“Poverty is a complex issue that requires a coordinated, multisectoral response of community partners. Delta is fortunate to have a strong existing network of stakeholders that can focus on key issues identified on the Poverty Action Plan,” the report adds.
The report goes on to note that the implementation of the actions is contingent upon the availability of adequate resources and the continuous commitment of senior levels of government to support municipalities.
The city last year received a $25,000 grant through the UBCM Poverty Reduction Planning and Action Program to conduct a poverty needs assessment and develop a poverty reduction action plan for Delta. LevelUp Consulting undertook the work under the guidance of a steering committee comprising representatives from various community organizations and partners.