Surrey Councillor Brenda Locke. (File photo: Amy Reid)

Councillor says Surrey Homelessness and Housing Society board disbanded

Brenda Locke says the decision was a direction from mayor, council ‘to bring it in-house’

Surrey Councillor Brenda Locke says the Surrey Homelessness and Housing Society “currently (has) no board members on the society.”

Locke, who was the board chair, said the board was not re-appointed following a recent closed council meeting.

Locke said it’s “unfortunate” the decision was made that way and there “should have been a discussion in open council.”

“It was a directive from mayor and council to not re-appoint the current directors,” she said. “I talked to mayor and he said he did not like the governance model. He wanted to bring it in-house.”

A spokesperson for the City of Surrey said Mayor Doug McCallum wouldn’t be commenting “as this matter was an item in Closed Council.”

She said it happened Thursday (June 25), following the society’s annual general meeting.

The board is made up of “high-profile people in our community,” Locke said, who “wanted to good work on social issues in Surrey.”

“They have done amazing work,” she noted. “It’s kind of devastating to be honest with you. I’m devastated and I certainly feel awful for those people that have worked hard over the year to support this organization.”

According to its website, the City of Surrey allocated $9 million from the city’s Affordable Housing Reserve Fund to seed the society. Its funds are managed by the Vancity Community Foundation.

The Surrey Homelessness and Housing Society’s mission is to “raise, manage and distribute funds to support programs, projects and initiatives to make a difference in the lives of people who are homeless or at-risk of homelessness in Surrey.”

Asked what that means for the society, Locke said it has about $11 million in the Vancity trust and now “there’s no way of supporting those dollars.”

With the COVID-19 pandemic, she said the society gave out $250,000 for relief to a “number of different agencies and community groups just to get them through COVID.”

“We did emergency fund grants and we gave granting opportunities for groups that needed money, especially to get them over difficult times.”

She added that the society was already planning on another granting opportunity in the fall if there is a second wave of the pandemic.

The society also has the Surrey Youth Assistance Fund, Locke said, which gives grants to youth-serving organizations and individual youth.

“All of that is on hiatus.”

READ ALSO: Mystery donor to triple donations to Surrey youth homelessness fund, June 26, 2020

Judy Villeneuve, former city councillor, said it was one of her goals during her time on council to “do something substantive” to help the homeless or those at-risk of homelessness in Surrey.

She was one of the people who spearheaded the society’s creation.

While she said she doesn’t have all the details on the board members not being re-appointed, Villeneuve said it “seems like a strange time to hold bck on a society at this particular time when there’s so much need for supporting homelessness services.”

If council’s decision is a “re-look,” Villeneuve said, then that could be good.

“But if the money’s not going to be used, then I don’t think that’s fair to the public.”

She added the board was set up to be transparent, and not political.

“There’s a lot of public contribution,” she said. “I do think they have to think carefully about what they do with this society and its funding.”

More to come.

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