A photo of Surrey’s 135A Street taken Thursday, June 15. (Photo: Amy Reid)

VIDEO: Tarp troubles for homeless on Surrey’s 135A Street

City says tarp rules are a safety effort, but advocate fears for the health of those living in tents

WHALLEY — A woman who runs a pop-up soup kitchen in Whalley is crying foul after learning homeless people living in tents have been asked to remove tarps.

“Their health is important too. People got soaked,” said Erin Schulte of her visit on Thursday night. “Just soaked.”

Posted by Erin Schulte on Thursday, June 15, 2017

Schulte shot a video while sitting in her van as rain poured outside.

“I don’t know if you’ve ever tented in weather like this but you will not last two hours in it,” she said in her live Facebook video. “You will be soaked. Then once your stuff gets soaked and it continues to rain for days, you’ve lost everything you have because you have no ability to dry your stuff. Hence, why I have all these blankets in the back.”

She estimated she handed out 50 blankets that day.

Schulte called on people to write to city hall.

Surrey’s bylaw enforcement manager Jas Rehal said it’s true that people are being asked to remove tarps, but that it’s a safety effort.

“What we want to remove is people that have a tent, then they put up a tarp that connects to another tent,” he explained. “It turns out being a very long structure that is not safe.

“We don’t want people to be soaked,” he added.

Rehal said this is one of many safety efforts along 135A Street. No open flames or lanterns are allowed in the tents along the street in an effort to avoid fires.

“We want to try to keep the area clean and safe,” said Rehal. “With all the tarps, there is not enough safe separation. But we will work with everyone to achieve it.”

Next week, Rehal added, there is a cleanup happening with street cleaners, and “on those days we like to make everyone be in compliance with the rules, as it is easier as everything is moved and placed back.”

“Weather is always taken into consideration,” noted Rehal, “along with everyone’s safety.”

amy.reid@surreynowleader.com