Cellphones provide an important connection for youth in Surrey, as issues such as a lack of transit make it hard to facilitate face-to-face conversations with friends. (Jessica S. Irvin / Unsplash)

YOUTH VOICE: Surrey teens on the biggest challenges they face today

Demonization of social media, lack of housing, tackling social isolation and more

These four local writers from the Cloverdale Library Teen Writing Group wrote in to inform us on the biggest issues facing teens in Surrey today. Want to weigh-in on local issues affecting youth, or Cloverdale residents on the whole? Write to our editor at editor@cloverdalereporter.com.

The Demonization of Social Media

By Olivia Anders

The ill-informed demonization of social media and its “effects” on teenagers is absolutely abhorrent.

News articles portray the internet as something forbidden, crawling with young people who constantly berate each other, cake their faces with makeup and flaunt their bodies. This is far from the truth. The fact that these articles aren’t written by teenagers should be enough proof that all this is completely out of touch with how actual groups of teenagers act online.

A teen’s phone is their only source of solace in this wreck of a world, even though an older person might not be able to notice it.

We’re social creatures, but friends are now hard to come by. There are more barriers for face-to-face interaction put up by adults than ever before, even though they don’t realize it.

The internet is a safe haven. You and your friends can hang out in a group chat, talk about things your parents would be absolutely appalled to hear, you can be yourself around these people and express your emotions and they can, too. There’s always drama in groups, but that stuff happens in “real life” as well.

It’s sad really, when you look at it, groups of young people miles and miles away yet so unbelievably close, sharing their fears and their hopes, huddling together like penguins in a snowstorm.

We’re afraid; everything happening around us is out of our control. We talk quietly amongst ourselves, afraid of what might be thrown at us in the coming years.

Threats of nuclear warfare brought on by people who should never have become national leaders, literal Nazis crawling out of the woodwork to march in the streets, every summer getting hotter as the years go by, money burning at the fingertips of greedy politicians when it could go to the poor and the dying, and above all, being told that the things listed above are completely invalid and “fake news” by the people in charge.

Pressure from past generations is unbelievably hard to handle, and I don’t think teenagers are to blame for why the world’s become such a hostile place. The last thing we should be condemning is technology that helps bring us together.

Solutions to homelessness in Surrey

By Jasmine Randhawa

Homelessness is evidently a growing issue in Surrey, with seemingly no end.

Some factors that lead towards homelessness include poverty, traumatic experiences, domestic violence, or mental health and substance use challenges.

In September 2018, a supportive housing development was proposed for downtown Cloverdale to help those experiencing homelessness in Surrey. It would have had 60 units of housing. The application was later withdrawn due to dissent from community members.

Various business owners and residents sent emails protesting the development to politicians, and many supported a petition against supportive housing in downtown Cloverdale. The main concerns that surfaced had to do with the location, and how future residents of the housing may negatively impact the safety of residents and profitability of businesses in the area.

In my opinion, the community’s dissent towards the housing plan made sense.

Though I recognize the hardships and difficulties of the homeless and I support the idea of a supportive housing facility, living in large groups will “categorize” those struggling with homelessness and they may be subsequently seen as responsible for the lack of commercialization or safety in their community, as are the homeless in Whalley.

Therefore, I believe the government should help the homeless reside in smaller groups (of about 15), throughout the city, so they can be supported by people going through the same thing, while not having to face any public backlash.

This scheme will not only ensure less future complaints regarding homeless residence in a certain area but also make it easier for the government to find places for such facilities.

Another option is to provide the homeless with rental support (rather than new housing) as it saves time and money and enables more people to be helped at the same time. This will also make easier for those who are homeless to be recognized as citizens, not as outcomes of past challenges.

Striking a balance between urban and rural

By Christina Park

When I asked my Japanese friend what would be a good change for our Cloverdale neighbourhood, she responded that there was too much unused land.

“In Tokyo, there are buildings and shops everywhere, all packed together,” she described, which contrasted with Clayton’s rural atmosphere of grass, roads and occasional shopping centres. I agreed with her, but concluded that there should be a balance between rurality where people can breathe, and urbanization which allows community cohesion.

To create this balance, building projects should be based on what is needed in the area. An example is Ècole Salish Secondary, which alleviates overcrowding issues in high schools such as Clayton Heights and Lord Tweedsmuir. The Ècole Salish building is exceptional, with glass walls and natural lighting pouring into classrooms. However, there is a contrast between the high school that looks as good as a university and the surrounding farm land, which needs to be developed. For starters, sidewalks leading to the school should be improved. Eating places such as Starbucks, McDonalds, and Tim Hortons might be added so teenagers can hang out and feel a part of the community.

Currently, there are other projects being put into place for the development of the Ècole Salish Secondary area. One includes the building of the Clayton Community Centre at 7155 187A St, which will be a futuristic-style building (completion date set at mid-2020) and include a hub for arts, a library, recreation space, and outdoor areas where people can connect.

Another project includes the construction of 262 townhomes and 71 apartments near Salish. This project is drawing concerns on overpopulation in schools, but luckily it will be completed in steps up to the year 2022 so that it removes this pressure. There would not be much point if Ècole Salish Secondary were to rapidly become as overcrowded as Lord Tweedsmuir once was.

By building what is needed for the community, developing its surroundings, and maintaining population growth, the Cloverdale-Clayton area seems to be evolving, not as in a downtown kind of urban, and not the farm kind of rural, but a balance between beautiful trees and fields and very modern buildings. It is exciting to see all these projects being implemented, and being a part of this community where ‘the future lives.’

Lack of transit isolates Surrey teens

By Heather Brandt

As the Surrey residents who are without access to a vehicle are aware, there is a lack of transit in our city. More bus routes are slowly being added, but there are still many areas without access to proper transit. Where there are transit routes, it’s not unusual to have a 30-minute wait between buses.

This is a prominent issue for teens who are too young to drive, especially for teens who live in more rural areas of the city, where walking to friend’s house or elsewhere is difficult if not impossible.

This severe lack of transport options inevitably leads to a sense of isolation as teens are unable to spend time with friends outside of school. If left unchecked, these feelings of isolation and loneliness can potentially lead to a negative impact on physical health or the development of mental health issues such as depression.

Conversely, when transport is easily available, and teens are able to spend time with friends, the positive impact is evident. According to the Harvard Medical School, being able to develop connections can boost mental health, as well as the immune system.

The lack of public transit causes more problems than many are aware, and creating immediate transit solutions should be a higher priority. Many teens already tend to isolate themselves from others, so any action that can be taken to encourage connections should be taken as soon as possible.



editor@cloverdalereporter.com

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