Participants in the Surrey Homelessness and Housing Society’s first Coldest Night of the Year event in Whalley earlier this year helped raise over $18,000 to help serve the vulnerable, hungry and homeless. The society’s focus for its fall campaign are the less visible “hidden homeless” living in unstable housing Surrey.

Helping house Surrey’s ‘hidden homeless’

Surrey Homelessness and Housing Society works to fund and assist on-the-ground service providers

Do you know an individual or family in Surrey that is couch-surfing, staying with friends or relatives “for now” or maybe even sleeping in their vehicle?

They could be among the city’s “hidden homeless,” the people not identified among the 602 people in Surrey from the 2017 Metro Vancouver Homeless Count. Those counted were mostly the “visible homeless,” those sleeping outdoors and/or accessing supports and services.

The Surrey Homelessness and Housing Society, which uses your donations to fund organizations supporting homeless people or those with unstable housing, has a good idea of the true numbers in Surrey. Letizia Romei, the Society’s team manager, says the Homeless Count “only begins to capture the whole picture.” A post-Count report focusing on Surrey echoed that statement: “… the visible homeless represent just the tip of the iceberg.”

So, who are the uncounted homeless?

“Not all homeless people are visible; they’re not just the men or women that we see sleeping rough in a doorway or tenting in a park, ” Romei says. “It could be a teenager who’s going to school who may look like any other teenager. It could be they’re aging out of government care. It is estimated that for every homeless person counted, there’s two more who are not.”

As part of its research and awareness campaign about the hidden homeless, the Society is learning there are “a lot of youth and seniors, and mothers and children” who are struggling to keep a roof over their heads, she says.

Surrey’s vulnerable populations can use a boost. Here’s 3 ways the Society does that:

  1. Grow – By managing its endowment fund and ongoing donations, the Society cultivates its ability to invest in community programs, projects and initiatives that serve those who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.
  2. Grant – Those investments in community come in the form of strategic grants to organizations and service providers that are building capacity to house and otherwise support those in need. The grants fund everything from new housing units and innovative service projects, to building renovations or repairs that better support vulnerable individuals. To mark their 10th anniversary in 2018, the Society awarded $1 million in grants to organizations working to reduce homelessness in Surrey!
  3. Lead – Not only does it fund worthwhile projects, the Society works collaboratively with groups supporting clients who are homeless or at risk of homelessness, as a way to enhance the effectiveness of those groups. That includes raising public awareness about supports available in the community, helping erase stigmas, and working to remove barriers to receiving those supports.

How you can help

Making a difference and helping Surrey’s hidden homeless population is as easy as donating to the Surrey Homelessness and Housing Society Fund, administered by Vancity Community Foundation.

You can find other ways to give here, and stay on top of the Society’s activities on Facebook.

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