The number of street homeless in Surrey has dropped by 25 per cent in the last three years, due in part to provincial investment in affordable housing and effective outreach.
A regional count of homelessness on March 16 this year, shows the number of people living on the streets in Metro Vancouver dropped by 843, or 54 per cent since the last count three years ago.
In Surrey, the number of of people with no shelter whatsoever dropped by 76, or 25 per cent, during the time between regional counts.
According to the preliminary figures, Surrey now has 231 street homeless and 157 living in shelters (an increase of 62 from the previous count).
Surrey Coun. Judy Villeneuve, president of Surrey’s Homelessness and Housing Society, is pleased by the figures, but says there is still much to do.
Surrey began a push some time ago to get people into permanent housing. With the help of outreach workers, that has become reality for many.
“My concern lies in that I don’t think we’re getting our fair share of funding for outreach workers,” said Villeneuve, also the co-chair of the Metro Vancouver Housing Corporation. Surrey only has six outreach workers, whereas Vancouver has 17, Kelowna has seven and even Victoria has more outreach workers than Surrey.
“Considering our geographic layout, which is the largest of all of those cities,” Villeneuve said. “The fact that we’re taking in 1,000 new people a month, we really need funding for outreach workers.”
She believes that many of the people living without shelter may have mental health needs, or other long-term care issues that require outreach workers to establish a trust.
Villeneuve gives some credit to the province, which has invested funds into affordable housing, such as Timber Grove Apartments (an Olympic Legacy project) with 52 suites.
She said the federal government needs to step up and create a fully funded National Housing Strategy.