The City of Surrey and BC Housing is opening a new “temporary emergency shelter” that will be a “24-7 operation.”
In a closed meeting on Sept. 16, Surrey council approved a lease agreement for a three-year period from Nov. 1, 2019 to Oct. 31, 2022 for a “temporary emergency shelter facility” at 10607 King George Blvd. There is an option for the city to extend the lease for two additional one-year periods.
Council also directed staff to award a single-source contract to KDS Construction for improvements up to a limit of $295,000, including taxes and a contingency.
Currently, crews are working to retrofit the building which was previously a motorcycle shop.
It’s welcome news to Keir Macdonald, CEO of Phoenix Society, who said additional year-round beds are “so needed,” particularly with a homeless camp set up in the woods near Bridgeview.
“All shelter beds have been full, and they’ve been full for a while, even after the new modular housing projects opened up,” he said.
“So that gives an opportunity for people to have a site they can access every night…. People can get into a routine. When people can get several nights of rest they start getting a little bit more comfortable. When people become more comfortable they become a little more approachable and engaging. That’s where the work can really happen.”
Rob Costanzo, general manager of corporate services, said the city is finalizing the new shelter space and working with BC Housing to get it open “as soon as possible.”
“We know we’ll definitely have this ready to go in November, we just haven’t landed on a specific date yet.”
The new Whalley facility, Costanzo said, will be a “24-7 operation.”
“It will be used for extreme weather, but it’ll be used beyond that,” he said. “Whether we’ll be operating for a full three years is unknown at this time.”
Costanzo said the city doesn’t have a “definitive end date in mind.”
With permanent, supportive housing projects “on the horizon,” Costanzo said the people using the shelter “could progress onto that type of housing.”
“It could be that best-case scenario, that situation (the supportive housing opening) pans out within a year, we would assess to determine if we would need to keep to a 24/7 operation at this location.”
Surrey Councillor Brenda Locke said the city wants this to be “a short-term solution for now” with a goal to build longer-term, more sustainable housing.
Asked if she thinks the city would use the two lease extensions, Locke said “It’s really hard to say.”
“I know it’s been difficult to try and find the appropriate locations, especially city land to build housing on.”
Meantime, Paul Chen, of Centreline Auto Repair, said he was told of the plans for a shelter in mid-October, when an employee with the city walked into his shop and verbally advised him of the plan.
“I have no problem with people here, the City of Surrey has to do something about it, but why do you pick the place right in front of King George?”
Despite that, Chen said his customers are “more comfortable” since 135A Street was cleaned up.
“Customers are actually walking around,” he said. “When there was a tent city here, people were afraid to go out. During the daytime it’s better. Our customers actually walk by, shopping.
“Now they’re putting this in here? Now you’re bringing in Hastings here, it feels like.”
Chen said he’s “pretty frustrated the city doesn’t consult with us.”
“They try to, but at the end of the day, it’s turning it into Hastings,” said Chen, adding that he’s just trying to make a living for his family. “I’m still struggling.”
He has listed his business property for sale, said Chen, add there’s “a lot of interest.”
Asked if he would sell if he got a decent offer, Chen said he would “sell right away.”
“Ending in November, if it doesn’t sell I’ll survive one more year. If somebody gave me good money, I would say you can have it in 30 days.”
Temporary, extreme weather shelters open throughout province
On Thursday (Oct. 31), the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and BC Housing announced temporary shelters and extreme weather spaces opening throughout the province.
Temporary shelters will be open every night for the season, the release notes, with many open 24-7 and offering meals.
Extreme weather shelters are available Nov. 1 to March 31, and individual communities establish a plan for weather conditions that warrant an extreme weather alert and determine the number of spaces to activate on a given night.
Temporary emergency shelter locations in Surrey:
• 10667 135A St., 40 spaces
• 10677 Whalley Blvd., 40 spaces
• 10607 King George Blvd, 42 spaces (opening in mid-November)
• 10776 King George Blvd., 50 spaces
• 14716 104 Ave., 40 spaces
• 6595 King George Blvd., 10 spaces
Extreme weather response shelter locations in Surrey:
• 5337 180 St. 25 spaces
• 10635 King George Blvd., 15 spaces (women only)
• 10453 Whalley Blvd., 10 spaces (youth only)
• 13639 108 Ave., 12 spaces
• 13686 94A Ave., 15 spaces
• 14716 104 Ave., 10 spaces
“During the colder months, it’s important that people experiencing homelessness in our province know that there is a place they can go to get warm and find supports and services that can help them stabilize their lives,” said Selina Robinson, minister for Municipal Affairs and Housing. “As we continue the work of building permanent housing, we’re proud to work in partnership with communities and non-profit housing providers to provide these shelter spaces.”
In total, the province will be opening nearly 1,355 temporary shelter spaces and more than 800 extreme weather response shelter spaces.