A past extreme weather response shelter set up for women inside Surrey’s Nightshift Street Ministries. (Photo: Chris Paul/nightshiftministries.org)

A past extreme weather response shelter set up for women inside Surrey’s Nightshift Street Ministries. (Photo: Chris Paul/nightshiftministries.org)

Homeless people in Surrey face ‘shocking and scary’ scenario this winter

Last winter there were nine Extreme Weather Response shelters in all of Surrey and White Rock. So far, during this pandemic, there are only five lined up for the coming winter

The winter looming ahead looks to be an especially dangerous one for homeless people in Surrey as the COVID-19 pandemic will limit the number of available beds and mats at Extreme Weather Response shelters the city has to offer because of physical distancing measures.

Councillor Brenda Locke called the situation “shocking and scary.”

A corporate report by Jean Lamontagne, Surrey’s general manager of planning and development, that came before city council Monday night revealed a dire scenario. Council authorized the mayor to send a letter to BC Housing requesting “special attention” to make sure more Extreme Weather Response shelters are made available in Surrey for 2020-21.

According to the report, to date only five locations have been identified in Surrey and White Rock for EWR shelters this coming winter. That’s only 52 mats for adults and six mats for youths. Two shelters are in Whalley, while Cloverdale, Fleetwood and South Surrey have one each.

Last winter, there were nine EWR shelters in Surrey with 143 spaces for adults and 10 youth spaces for all of Surrey and White Rock.

Lamontagne’s report noted that 46 shelter beds are set to open at the Olive Branch Shelter at the end of October. “Given this information,” he wrote, “a rough estimate of the total number of EWR spaces required in Surrey is 195. This means that an estimated additional 137 spaces are needed (195-58 confirmed spaces).”

Extreme weather alerts were called on 99 nights between October 29, 2019 and March 25, 2020.

The Surrey-White Rock EWR plan defines extreme weather as “conditions deemed severe enough to present a substantial threat to the life or health of homeless people,” such as temperatures at or below zero degrees celsius, significant snow accumulation or sleet and freezing rain conditions, significant windstorms that may present danger to people living in wooded areas and makeshift shelters like cardboard boxes or lean-tos, and periods of extended heavy rain that saturates the ground, making it difficult for people to keep dry.

These shelters typically operate in churches and community agencies with BC Housing’s EWR funding covering the cost of staffing, food, cleaning and first aid supplies, and laundry.

Locke said while she supports the mayor writing a letter to BC Housing for help, “I’m just not sure that that’s enough. We are looking at a significant deficit of spaces for this coming winter and that is so frightening.”

Locke noted the number of people living on the streets in Surrey has grown “a lot in the last year and a bit” and said that a recent count of 644 homeless people in Surrey, done over two days, is a “significant under-count” because Surrey has a lot of land to cover and people fall through the cracks.

“We are probably looking at double or maybe even triple that number,” Locke said. “This is pretty frightening that we are not going to be able to serve people, the most vulnerable people, in our city this winter and I’m very concerned about that.”



tom.zytaruk@surreynowleader.com

Like us on Facebook and follow Tom on Twitter

City of SurreyCoronavirusHomelessnessSurrey

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

Just Posted

Ben “Santa” Cohen visits Ecole Martha Currie in Cloverdale Dec. 4. Santa wished everyone a socially-distanced Merry Christmas out in front of the school. (Photo: Malin Jordan)
Santa visits Ecole Martha Currie in Cloverdale

First gig of the season for Ben ‘Santa’ Cohen; COVID driving most gigs online

Shawn Canil, a Cloverdale-area resident, turns heads with the truck he’s decorated for Christmas. (Photo: Tom Zillich)
Truck’s Christmas decorations lift spirits on Cloverdale man’s commute

‘When I see them smiling, I know it’s worth it,’ pickup driver Shawn Canil says

Gurbaz Singh, deli manager at the Cloverdale Country Market, arranges some gifts in the back of a vintage car. The car is part of the Cloverdale Country Market’s “December to Remember” picture taking area. The market is encouraging people to come down, snap some Christmas pics and share them on social media. (Photo: Malin Jordan)
PHOTOS: Cloverdale Country Market creates Christmas picture space

Market cancels annual Christmas Craft Fair, replaces it with Christmas picture zone

At least one person received life-threatening injuries when a car collided with a semi truck in South Surrey on Friday morning. (Brenda Anderson photo)
VIDEO: South Surrey crash sends one to hospital in critical condition

Road closures in effect after collison between car and semi-truck

South Surrey and White Rock Chamber of Commerce. (Contributed photo)
South Surrey and White Rock Chamber of Commerce to host virtual COVID-19 town hall

Online event to include local politicians and representatives from Fraser Health, WorkSafe BC

Pickleball game in Vancouver on Sunday, November 8, 2020. B.C.’s public health restrictions for COVID-19 have been extended to adult team sports, indoors and outside. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
711 more COVID-19 cases detected in B.C. Friday

‘Virus is not letting up and neither can we’

Demonstrators, organized by the Public Fishery Alliance, outside the downtown Vancouver offices of Fisheries and Oceans Canada July 6 demand the marking of all hatchery chinook to allow for a sustainable public fishery while wild stocks recover. (Public Fishery Alliance Facebook photo)
Angry B.C. anglers see petition tabled in House of Commons

Salmon fishers demand better access to the healthy stocks in the public fishery

(Hotel Zed/Flytographer)
B.C. hotel grants couple 18 years of free stays after making baby on Valentines Day

Hotel Zed has announced a Kelowna couple has received free Valentines Day stays for next 18 years

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Farmers raise slogans during a protest on a highway at the Delhi-Haryana state border, India, Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau rejected the diplomatic scolding Canada’s envoy to India received on Friday for his recent comments in support of protesting Indian farmers. Tens of thousands of farmers have descended upon the borders of New Delhi to protest new farming laws that they say will open them to corporate exploitation. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Manish Swarup
Trudeau brushes off India’s criticism for standing with farmers in anti-Modi protests

The High Commission of India in Ottawa had no comment when contacted Friday

Nurse Kath Olmstead prepares a shot as the world’s biggest study of a possible COVID-19 vaccine, developed by the National Institutes of Health and Moderna Inc., gets underway Monday, July 27, 2020, in Binghamton, N.Y. U.S. biotech firm Moderna says its vaccine is showing signs of producing lasting immunity to COVID-19, and that it will have as many as many as 125 million doses available by the end of March. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Hans Pennink
Canada orders more COVID vaccines, refines advice on first doses as cases reach 400K

Canada recorded its 300,000th case of COVID-19 on Nov. 16

Apartments are seen lit up in downtown Vancouver as people are encouraged to stay home during the global COVID-19 pandemic on Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020. British Columbia’s deputy provincial health officer says provincewide data show the most important area B.C. must tackle in its response to the COVID-19 pandemic is health inequity. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Marissa Tiel
Age, income among top factors affecting well-being during pandemic, B.C. survey shows

Among respondents earning $20,000 a year or less, more than 41 per cent reported concern about food insecurity

Chilliwack General Hospital. (Jenna Hauck/ Progress file)
Chilliwack mother upset about son’s alleged suicide attempt after hospital discharge

Rhonda Clough said 34-year-old son suffering with bipolar disorder should have been kept in hospital

Victoria-based driving instructors are concerned for their own and the community’s safety with the continued number of residents from COVID hotspots in the Lower Mainland coming to the city to take their driving road tests. (Black Press Media file photo)
Students from COVID hotspots travel to Vancouver Island for driving tests

Union leader calls on government to institute stronger travel ban

Most Read