In 2020, the Metro Vancouver Homeless Count identified 644 people experiencing homelessness in Surrey. In reality, the number of people experiencing homelessness and facing housing insecurity is widely recognized to be much higher.
“The Homeless Count captures a point in time, it shows us demographics and trends, and the data are used by government, funders and community agencies to inform program and policy decisions. But there are many people in Surrey, who are not captured here – they may become homeless but find temporary solutions like staying with a friend or living in their vehicle,” says Letizia Romei from the Surrey Homelessness and Housing Society.
Homelessness impacts everyone in the community, and housing insecurity can be caused by many different situations — job loss, a health crisis, rising rent-to-income ratios, government measures like the moratorium on evictions coming to an end. Homelessness Action Week, Oct. 10 to 17, is an opportunity to raise awareness and understanding.
“Our Housing for Hope campaign is really about bringing an understanding that everyone deserves stable housing — it’s the foundation that helps people move forward, helping bring physical and mental wellness, and access to other opportunities like education or employment,” Romei says.
Granting stability, hope
The Surrey Homelessness and Housing Society provides funding, through grants, to local organizations offering direct services. In 2020 they granted $600,000 to 30 projects for urgent pandemic response, and in 2021 they’ve granted $290,000 to nine projects focusing less on emergency aid and more on housing stability and addressing the lingering impacts of the pandemic.
“In the early days of the pandemic we offered grants to help organizations adapt their services, either with materials like Plexiglas dividers and hand sanitizer, or supporting staff capacity to help keep people safe and navigate the sudden changes in available services. Needs continue to evolve, and now we’re looking longer term,” Romei says.
In 2020, Phoenix Drug & Alcohol Recovery and Education Society received funding for their Phoenix Flame BBQ food truck which provides free meals, and the Fraser Region Aboriginal Friendship Centre Association received grant money for increased staff capacity and to provide emergency intervention and skills development, so people could sustain their housing.
“We support a range of programs and projects that create and maintain housing for people impacted by homelessness in our community,” Romei says. “That includes a recent grant to Pacific Community Resources Society to support meal planning and cooking skills for youth in their semi-independent living program. It also includes funding for technology to support the transition to virtual services – when the pandemic hit, many faced barriers to accessing technology and getting connected to supports only offered online.”
To find out how to get involved, or to donate to the Housing for Hope campaign, visit surreyhomeless.ca/give.