A now-closed beer and wine store in Surrey will be transformed into a new winter homeless shelter due to open in November.

Province helps fund new winter homeless shelter in Surrey

But Downtown Surrey BIA report says government needs to step up support in fast-growing city.

A 40-bed temporary winter shelter will be opened near the former Dell Hotel site in Whalley beginning in November, the provincial government promised Tuesday.

Rich Coleman, the minister responsible for housing, said the province will provide approximately $400,000 to Lookout Emergency Aid Society to operate the new Surrey shelter, intended to provide a warm, safe place to stay for those who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.

Coleman said opening additional shelters in the winter is a “critical” step in addressing homelessness provincewide.

“We have to ensure B.C.’s most vulnerable people have safe shelter when they need it most – only then are we able to connect them with the support services that will set them up for more stable, permanent housing.”

Shayne Williams, executive director at Lookout, said winter shelters allow his organization to serve individuals they might not otherwise come in contact with.

“Through these interactions the Lookout Society can help stabilize their lives, connect them with the community services and find them appropriate housing,” said Williams.

The province is also providing additional funding for extreme weather shelters in Surrey, which will open as needed between November and April, with locations to be determined by the end of October.

The funding announcement comes on the heels of the Downtown Surrey Business Improvement Association’s (DSBIA) 2015 Housing Report, which in part, criticizes BC Housing for providing “substantially less” funding to Surrey, as compared to Vancouver.

The report says while BC Housing spent $395 million in Metro Vancouver in 2014-2015, just $47.5 million of that was spent in Surrey, while $230 million went to Vancouver.

The report says Surrey has a received significantly less than Vancouver since 2011, noting there have only been three capital projects completed in Surrey in the last decade – Timber Grove, Phoenix Centre and the Atira project.

“Considering Surrey will soon surpass Vancouver in terms of population, steps should be taken now to better protect and support our vulnerable population.”

DSBIA figures show 403 people in Surrey identified as homeless in 2014, compared to 1,803 in Vancouver.

The report says when last reviewed, there were 85 beds at three co-ed emergency shelters in Surrey, 26 at two women’s shelters, six at a youth safe house and 48 at other safe houses – all of which are regularly full.

The DSBIA report says though the City of Vancouver didn’t achieve it’s goal of ending homelessness by 2015, it is making rapid progress in developing housing for those at risk.  It’s acknowledged there are four times more homeless there than in Surrey. But that, the report says, could change.

“As Surrey is growing considerably faster than Vancouver (800 new residents per month in Surrey versus 5,000 per year in Vancouver), it is clear that Surrey’s needs will continue to grow.”

The new winter shelter is slated for a space in the Dell Shopping Centre that used to be a beer and wine store. It will be open 24/7 and serve three meals per day.