Surrey Community Profile by the United Way of the Lower Mainland

UWLM logo Change Starts Here logobc211 partnered with the United Way of the Lower Mainland to support the development of a Surrey/White Rock Community Profile, which was recently featured in the local media.

This is the first in a series of profiles focusing on Lower Mainland communities that will include data and analysis contributed by bc211. A big shout out to Lilianne and Susan at bc211, who worked closely with the UWLM team on this report! Thanks for your outstanding work.


The United Way of the Lower Mainland (UWLM) Community Profile on Surrey (and White Rock)

is the first of a series UWLM is publishing, across the Lower Mainland. These are intended to dive deep into a community and its current socio-demographic profile.

The United Way decided to do these profiles, and started with Surrey, for a few reasons:

  • As a knowledge resource and a community partner, we are providing compiled community profiles to inform our partners’ planning and strategies.
  • Surrey has grown and changed a great deal over the last decades and the United Way wanted to identify exactly how.
  • UWLM funds many agencies and services in Surrey and we are aware of changing needs. This profile will inform our investment in future services, to partner in Surrey for an even stronger community.

In the Surrey community profile, we examined three different indicators: Population, Economic, and Social indicators. These were our focus because in social services planning, we need to know who our population is, where they live, and what their strengths and needs are. Noting community trends tells us the good news, gives us interesting comparison to other municipalities locally, and tells us where we may need to sit up and pay attention.

As an added feature, we also include some data on calls handled by bc211, from Surrey residents. It was not previously explored and may help further inform funders, planners and providers.

UWLM Surrey_Wh_Rock_Profile_Title detailSurrey Community Profile Highlights

(click here to view the full report online)

  • Surrey is the fastest growing city in Metro Vancouver, and in fact its population nearly doubled from 1991 to 2011. Surrey’s 2011 population was almost 470,000.
  • Surrey’s live birth rate is 13.5 new births per 1000 people, compared to 9.9 for BC, and Surrey contributes more than 10 per cent of all the live births in the province.
  • In every Surrey community, the 35-64 parenting and working age group is the largest, but the population composition trends will be changing.
  • In 2011, the 50 to 64 age groups were almost 90,000 people – about 20 per cent of Surrey’s population. This means in the next 5 to 10 years the retiree population will grow significantly.
  • Another reason for population growth is new residents coming into a community. As a proportion of total population in Surrey, 40.5 per cent are immigrants.
  • In the 2014/15 school year, more than half of the Surrey School District students spoke a language other than English at home.
  • Surrey’s median income is in line with most of the comparison municipalities, and is in fact a smidge higher than City of Vancouver, but a bit lower than the whole metro Vancouver region.
  • Within Surrey, Newton has the highest number of low-income individuals, but proportionally, Whalley and Guildford both have just over 20 per cent of their populations in the low income range.
  • In Guildford, almost 26 per cent of individuals living in low income situations are children, and it is almost 25 per cent in Whalley.

bc211 Call Data

Looking at the demographics of bc211 callers, the reasons they call and the types of referrals made gives some insight into the issues Surrey residents are dealing with.

  • In calendar year 2014, there were 15,173 calls from Surrey, an increase of 19 per cent from the previous year (compared to a 3 per cent increase in the number of calls in the Lower Mainland).
  • Top three reasons for calls were housing and homelessness, substance use and abuse.

o Among the calls related to housing in Surrey, 86 per cent were for emergency housing
o Among the calls relate to abuse, 65 per cent concerned domestic violence

UWLM Surrey_Wh_Rock_Profile_Cover shotWhat is UWLM doing in Surrey?

  • UWLM knows that with the changes seen in these communities, the social safety net has also evolved over the same period. This has occurred, in part, because UWLM is investing almost 2.9 million donor dollars this year alone in effective community-based programs and services and because UWLM continues to work in partnership with public partners, like the City of Surrey.
  • A spotlight investment in Surrey is United Way’s Avenues of Change (UWAOC). It is an unparalleled 5-year investment of about $2 million in Surrey, in one neighbourhood where we know young kids are struggling. We’ve chosen Guildford West as one of our pilot sites. UWAOC takes a bold place-based approach—one that implements tailored action strategies to tackle a range of their neighbourhood-specific factors that are contributing to childhood vulnerability.

This Community Profile summary was provided by Mary Ellen Schaafsma. Mary Ellen joined the United Way of the Lower Mainland as the Director of Research and Product Development in September 2014. Since she joined, she has focused on building a high functioning unit that researches community and social issues to guide investment decisions. Mary Ellen acts as a knowledge resource to UWLM’s partners, and ensures the compelling stories and impact of the work UWLM funds inspires our donors and stakeholders. Before coming to the United Way, Mary Ellen lived in Ottawa and was the Executive Director of the Canadian Cochrane Centre, a health care research and knowledge transfer organization. Over her career, she has worked in many areas of health and social services including: mental health, people with disabilities, children’s rehabilitation, and hospital care.

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