Remnants of a homeless camp in the 2800-block of 164 Street in South Surrey. (File photo)

Co-ordinated homelessness strategy would be ‘dream come true’ for Surrey/White Rock

Abbotsford’s efforts shared with Peninsula Homeless to Housing task force

An integrated system developed in Abbotsford to help prevent and respond to homelessness could “absolutely” be scaled to work in a community such as White Rock, members of the Peninsula Homeless to Housing Task Force heard recently.

Dena Kae Beno, housing and homelessness co-ordinator for the City of Abbotsford, shared her city’s strategy with the local task force during a presentation earlier this month.

Driven by $400,000 received in 2015 for research, the strategy ultimately arose “out of a very unfortunate incident” that occurred in 2013, Beno said. In June of that year, city workers dumped chicken manure on a site frequented by Abbotsford’s homeless population.

READ MORE: City will deal internally with manure-dumping on homeless camp

READ MORE: UPDATE: City, homeless advocates both pleased with case outcome

The incident was among actions cited in a lawsuit which resulted in conditions, including that the city allow homeless individuals to camp overnight in some parks.

But it was also “an impetus” that led to recommendations for the prevention and response system, Beno said.

“That plan recognized that the city could not solve this alone,” she said.

The funding received in May 2015 was for the research and development of a co-ordinated intake and referral model. “Collaborative mapping” that followed represented the perspectives of 175 stakeholders, Beno said, and was a critical step in rebuilding relationships in the community.

“It was a very rich and deep process, because people actually saw their perspectives and their voices represented,” she said. “It was more about, this is a common issue that our societies have.”

Also important in the process was the realization that steps mapped out were not meant to be tackled alone. Beno said body language took a noticeable shift when that clicked during presentation of the strategy to a room that included Abbotsford city councillors.

Beno said a community hub centre that opened in Abbotsford combines everything from housing and mental health services to laundry access and a food bank. A focus on interrupting vulnerability earlier – striving to do better at supporting needs ahead of crisis, by building a circle of support around an individual – has gone a long way, she said.

She recounted a story of one man who was helped through the hub to reconnect with a daughter he hadn’t spoken to in 15 years. The effort “touched about seven of our local agencies,” Beno said.

And, there is a ripple effect, she said.

“If we can create a system or infrastructure that can support the most vulnerable in our community, then we’re creating an infrastructure that can support everyone to thrive.”

Abbotsford, she noted, still has “a lot of work to do.”

PH2H chair Rick Bayer described the direction Beno chronicled as “very inspiring.”

“Hopefully, we’ll see something like that come to Surrey and White Rock,” he said.

Another task force member commented that the co-ordination of agencies and services is “like a dream come true.”

Beno lauded the role that Abbotsford council has played, describing them as “so engaged.”

“When the city did lean in, with courage, that’s where our work began,” she said. “I would just encourage you to have those conversations.”

For municipalities wanting to embark on a similar path, she said it’s key to start with stakeholders and areas of capability, “then you can scale it to the resources you have here.”



tholmes@peacearchnews.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Man killed in fall from Civic Hotel balcony in Surrey

Heavy emergency services presence in plaza at the skyscraper, at 13475 Central Ave.

Outdoor skating rink at free Winter Festival in Surrey, with food trucks and more

At Guildford Town Centre, hit the ice for free with your own skates or rent some for donation

Ride-hailing arrives in North Delta

Uber’s picking up passengers in North Delta, Ladner, but Tsawwassen is still waiting for the service

Plans for apartments on Strawberry Hill shopping site coming to Surrey council

It would be near the library, and include 123 rental units

Uber says it’s been serving North Surrey since 8 a.m. Friday

Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum has voiced vehement opposition to ride hailing in this city

VIDEO: Mass coronavirus quarantines seen in China won’t happen in Canada, authorities say

‘If a case comes here, and it is probably … it will still be business as normal’

Province’s oldest practising lawyer shares advice at her 100th birthday party

Firefighters bring Constance Isherwood a cake with 100 birthday candles

Vernon woman suing McDonald’s for spilled coffee

Woman seeking nearly $10K, says employee failed to put lid on properly

5 things you need to know to start using ridesharing in Metro Vancouver

From how to get started to where drivers can take you, heres all you need to know

Diners’ health tax not catching on in B.C., restaurant group says

Small businesses look for options to cover employer health tax

B.C. comic wins judgment after club owner slaps cellphone out of his hands

Incident happened last summer when Garrett Clark was performing in Abbotsford

Mayors call for ‘calmness’ as highway rockslide cuts Tofino, Ucluelet off from supplies

Ministry of transportation expects to open road for “essential travel only” from noon-8 p.m. Friday.

Owner surrenders dog suffering from days-old gunshot wound to B.C. SPCA

The dog was also found to be emaciated and suffering from a flea infestation

Most Read