New Westminster, at the centre of the Lower Mainland, is a small city, with a population just shy of 80,000 according to the latest census. As a close-knit community, seeing that 10 per cent of our neighbours live in poverty is alarming.
The affordability crisis has sent people across B.C. reeling, looking to their cities and government for answers. And in New Westminster, where nearly 8,000 households are below the federal low-income measure – including more than 1,000 youth and close to 2,000 seniors – finding lasting solutions to poverty is critical to the city’s health.
Financial empowerment is a beacon for those struggling against the tides of poverty. And a local charity, Family Services of Greater Vancouver (FSGV), is leading a wave of non-judgmental support. The premise of financial empowerment is not about telling people they can budget their way out of poverty. Instead, the coaches at FSGV get to know every person and their unique situation to provide personalized recommendations about tax filing, accessing benefits, and managing debt.
Newcomers, seniors on fixed incomes, single-parent households, and disabled people all face unique challenges to building their financial resilience – and New Westminster is home to many people who have living experience in at least one of these categories.
Financial empowerment programs tailored to these local dynamics provide a bridge for building resilient residents who want to be active participants in their local economy. It's not just about personal financial independence, it's about building a collective resilience that defines the future trajectory of these communities. When people have enough money to cover housing and food costs, it frees them up to focus on their futures: continuing education, career goals, and civic engagement.
On the topic of engagement, it’s also important that poverty reduction solutions like financial empowerment are embedded in the municipal landscape. FSGV works directly with local community organizations, the City, the Credit Counselling Society, BC Rent Bank, and government services.
For 2,200 single-parent households, 5,000 recent immigrants, and 1,000 New West youth in poverty, feeling empowered about their future starts with understanding how they fit into its economy. This requires both financial literacy and the dismantling of barriers – both systemic and institutional – that prevent people from accessing quality, relevant, and appropriate financial services. Governments, cities, and financial institutions all have a role to play to build brighter tomorrows – for everyone.
If you’re looking for financial help services, FSGV offers free one-on-one coaching in English, French, Vietnamese, Cantonese, Spanish, and Farsi. Learn more at fsgv.ca/financial-empowerment.
Rocio Vasquez, manager of financial empowerment at FSGV.