Dozens of Montreal North’s elected officials, business leaders and community organizers met on Friday to discuss how to end poverty in the borough.

It was the first of three meetings that the borough will use to inform its upcoming plan to fight poverty and improve student success rates.

Kamal Chafix, a member of a local youth group, said the meeting is a cause for optimism in an area that sorely needs it.

“For the first time, I see people that have weight and can change the balance,” he said. “So, yes, I think they might have a change, and if they don’t, it’s worth a shot. I have two little brothers coming here and I want them to have something better.”

Montreal North is part of the poorest federal riding in Canada. Almost half of children in the borough live under the poverty line and the drop-out rate is about 25 per cent. In one high school, that rate is as high as 35 per cent.

The borough is not without hope. Chafix said relations with police hit a low in aftermath of the police shooting of Fredy Villanueva in 2008.

“We just see someone shooting some else, you assume that’s a bad guy,” he said. “We didn’t see the uniform, we just saw someone killing someone else.”

While Chafix said relations with police have improved since then, youth still need mentors and jobs.