A firefighter and social service provider consult during the removal of a tent city in Whalley on Wednesday.

‘Where do you go if you have nothing and nowhere?’

Tent city dismantled in North Surrey, causing some to ask what happens to the homeless now?



At least 20 people were evicted from a tent city in Whalley this week, but service providers insist they will all have warm places to stay.

The group of about 20 tents had been on a vacant lot in at 105A Avenue and 135A Street for about four months.

They were initially located on a city property, but were moved at the direction of Surrey’s bylaw department. The group then moved over to an adjacent private property.

That property owner then complained to the city, prompting strategic meetings between the RCMP, Surrey bylaw officers, Fraser Health, Lookout  Emergency Aid Society and the Surrey Fire Department.

At 10 a.m. Wednesday, enforcement officials moved in to clear the property of the homeless and their tents.

Among the things hauled away were 10 to 15 propane tanks, presumably used for some kind of heating.

Paul, who was staying there last month, said options aren’t great when you’re living in poverty.

He was kicked out of the Front Room drop-in centre for a week after hitting another man with a laundry bag, in what he described as “horseplay.”

Either he finds some shelter – namely his tent – or he’ll freeze, he told The Leader at the time.

Jonquil Hallgate, executive director of the Surrey Urban Mission Society (SUMS), was at the site Wednesday when enforcement officials were tearing tents down.

“It’s a sad picture of Surrey,” Hallgate said. “If people had places to go, they would be there, they wouldn’t be here.”

The people camping there have no connection to family or friends and few alternatives as to where they might go, she said.

“The reality is, where do you go if you have nothing and nowhere?” Hallgate asked. “What do you do?”

Shayne Williams, executive director for the Lookout Emergency Aid Society, said all 20 or so people will be triaged at the Front Room Drop In Centre in Whalley and found places to stay.

“There are extreme weather beds we can open if we have to, so we’ll open to full capacity if we have to,” Williams said, adding 20 beds could be found at the Legacy Church in Fleetwood if needed.

He agrees with Hallgate in that it’s sad that anyone would have to live under such conditions.

“In this day and age, it’s absolutely horrendous – and in this weather – to see people live rough in tents,” Williams said.

“It definitely speaks to a lack of affordable housing in our community,” he said. “Our number-one challenge with all of the people we serve… is poverty. If they have money, they’re not staying with us.”

Surrey City Manager Vincent Lalonde said the city was cautious in how it proceeded after the landowner’s complaint.

A team was assembled to make sure housing was available for all the people that were living in tents, he said.

People living in the tent city were given a few days’ notice that it the eviction was coming so they could make plans as to what they wanted to do.

Meanwhile, Surrey council is expected to give final adoption to a plan to use land behind the Shirley Dean Pavilion near Surrey Memorial Hospital for a new shelter.

Williams told The Leader it would likely be a 40-bed homeless shelter, with 30 transitional beds and 30 affordable housing units.

He said it is being planned to be complete in 2018.

Lalonde said he wants it up and running before that.

“Our indication is the province is definitely open to provide funding for Surrey to build one of those,” Lalonde said. He’s hoping the design team will be working on the facility as soon as next year.

“And then we can start construction,” Lalonde said.

Just Posted

COMMUTER ALERT: Motorcycle crash on major thoroughfare sends one to hospital

Mounties are still on scene of an afternoon accident at 64th Avenue and 168th Street.

Man facing seven charges after alleged threats at Surrey restaurant

Surrey RCMP say incident at Whalley business was ‘very traumatic’ for customers and employees

Record turnout for Five Corners concert in White Rock

Abba/Elton John/Billy Joel salute attracts an estimated 4,500 people

Well-respected Peninsula physician passes

Dr. Alan Pretty, former PAH chief of medical staff, was more than 40 years at Hilltop Medical Clinic

Witchazel rocks again with CD of ‘Lost Tapes’ from band’s ’80s glory days

Surrey bar a stage for ‘Cancer Killer Rock Party’ on Aug. 30

Average Canadian family spends 43% of income on taxes: study

Fraser Institute’s consumer report shows taxes accounting for larger chunk of income each year

Women-owned businesses generate $68,000 less revenue than men’s: survey

When Dionne Laslo-Baker sought a bank loan to expand her burgeoning organic popsicle and freezies business in 2014, she was “shocked” by the feedback she received from one of the bankers.

Hedley frontman’s alleged sex offences case returns to court

Jacob Hoggard faces three sexual assault-related charges will return to a Toronto courtroom this morning.

Climate change likely to cause more sewage leaks, says environment minister

More than one hundred municipal wastewater systems did not report how much raw sewage overflowed from their pipes in 2017.

Priests molested 1,000 children in Pennsylvania, report says

The “real number” of abused children and abusive priests might be higher since some secret church records were lost and some victims never came forward.

Defiant as Trump rages, Omarosa says she won’t be silenced

Manigault Newman declared she will not be silenced by President Donald Trump, remaining defiant as her public feud with her former boss shifted from a war of words to a possible legal battle.

Death toll hits 39 in Italy bridge collapse; blame begins

The collapse of the Morandi Bridge sent dozens of cars and three trucks plunging as much as 45 metres (150 feet) to the ground Tuesday.

RCMP to search for body after man drowns in B.C.’s Buntzen Lake

Officers and fire crews responded but the man from the Lower Mainland is believed to have drowned.

Police chiefs call for stricter controls on pill presses to fight opioids

Canada’s police chiefs are urging Ottawa to beef up its fight against the opioid scourge by closely vetting people who import pill presses

Most Read