Eric Blesch, Saa-ust Office Manager

City makes 10-year commitment to supporting the social sector with newly adopted Social Infrastructure Strategy

By working in partnership with senior governments, non-profits, and the private sector, we can find existing spaces, as well as build new ones, that create stronger connections between neighbours and build healthier communities.

Mayor Kennedy Stewart

December 8 2021 –

Today, City Council took a significant step towards improving social connection and meeting the needs of all Vancouver residents by adopting the 10-year Spaces to Thrive: Vancouver Social Infrastructure Strategy. 

Vancouver’s first social infrastructure strategy aligns to the City’s Reconciliation, equity, and resilience priorities. It is grounded in partnerships with Indigenous and non-profit organizations, other levels of government, and the private sector.

Over the next decade, Vancouver will need to increase efforts in several areas to adapt to the impacts of climate crises and rising social and economic inequities. Through the strategy, we aim to provide disproportionately impacted communities with resources needed to improve well-being and access to basic human needs. 

Social infrastructure spaces have far reaching and impactful benefits. For example, Saa-ust centre is an Indigenous healing and wellness centre operating out of a City-owned building. Saa-ust functions as a hub where organizations like Indian Residential School Survivors Services and Pacific Association of First Nations Women work together to support family and loved ones of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls and provide services to Indigenous community members.  

What is social infrastructure? 

Social infrastructure refers to physical spaces, services, programs and the networks across and within these spaces where people come together and enhance overall well-being. Social service centres, including neighbourhood houses, Indigenous wellness and culture centres, social enterprises, and informal gathering spaces are all examples of social infrastructure.

There are many ways we invest in social infrastructure, including:

  • Building, operating and renovating social facilities
  • Building and leasing social facilities to non-profit organizations
  • Providing funding to non-profit organizations to build, renovate, and renew their facilities
  • Providing grants for service delivery and operations.

Upcoming actions

While the implementation plan for the Spaces to Thrive is being developed, we've identified actions we can take now to meet the objectives of the strategy. 

Examples of these actions include:

  • Creating an urban Indigenous service delivery and resilience strategy
  • Developing a space matching database
    • We will develop a database to quickly match available spaces with a non-profit organizations to meet community needs.
  • Collaborating with the private sector
  • Develop space redevelopment/retrofit program for non-profits
    • We will develop a program to support non-profit and community groups in redevelopment or retrofits with programmatic elements, city process information, and opportunities for grants, including funding for accessible design upgrades.

Read the Spaces to Thrive: Vancouver Social Infrastructure Strategy (5 MB)

We engaged more than 285 organizations for the development of the strategy and is grateful for the time and generosity of the organizations and groups who shared their insights and experiences. See the full list of participating organizations (5 MB)


Mayor Kennedy Stewart

“Making sure people in need have access to spaces and services that help them thrive is critical to building back better from COVID-19,” said Mayor Kennedy Stewart. “By working in partnership with senior governments, non-profits, and the private sector, we can find existing spaces, as well as build new ones, that create stronger connections between neighbours and build healthier communities.”

Eric Blesch, Saa-ust Office Manager

“We try to provide clients with a safe space where they can come and access culture, they can access Elders and they can access medicine they need so they can get through the traumatic experience of having a family member go missing or murdered,” said Eric Blesch, Saa-ust Office Manager. “There has never been a space like this before, there has never been a service like this before, so our program here is very new. We use culture as our backbone for all our programming.”