To some observers, it might have seemed like an unlikely assembly – some of Cloverdale’s leading business people munching hot dogs alongside a wide assortment of people, from students, residents and shop owners to folks from the other side of the tracks.
But that’s Cloverdale.
Thursday, staff from Cloverdale Hyland House, a local homeless shelter located on Colebrook Road, were serving up a barbecue lunch at Hawthorne Square in the historic town centre.
The outreach barbecue was just one of the events taking place across the city as part of Homelessness in Action week. It was hosted by Options Community Services, which operates Hyland House, a 10-bed facility for homeless people that opened in 2008.
Peter Fedos, program manager of Hyland House, said the community of Cloverdale is a supportive one when it comes to dealing with issues of homelessness and those in need.
Part of the explanation may be that Cloverdale’s homeless people aren’t transplants from somewhere else, he says. They’re people with ties here, through family, history or circumstance.
There are fewer visibly homeless people in downtown Cloverdale, but Fedos said an official count hasn’t been taken recently so it’s difficult to know for sure.
“I think we’re meeting the need,” he said, adding it’s not uncommon for local businesses and residents to call Options asking how they can help – whether it’s donating food or clothing.
“Cloverdale’s been amazing in terms of acceptance,” he said, pointing to Cloverdale Chamber of Commerce executive director Bill Reid and other local business people as they chatted amiably around a display table with information and pamphlets.
Cloverdale’s small town feel means residents have a sense that, “It’s our problem, let’s deal with it,” when it comes to homelessness, he said.
“That willingness to help out – it’s just so nice to work with. They’re about solutions, it’s not about whining. People are pulling together here.”
Case in point? Nearly two years ago, the city tore down the old Cloverdale Mall to make way for a new residential and commercial development that’s yet to take shape on the now-vacant lot.
The mall was home to the Shepherd’s Inn Soup Kitchen and Cloverdale’s extreme weather shelter, which was originally constructed thanks to the combined efforts of the Surrey RCMP, Cloverdale Chamber of Commerce, Cloverdale BIA, Rotary Club, Cloverdale Christian Fellowship and the City of Surrey.
[At left, members of the Cloverdale community enjoy the outreach barbecue.]
With the mall gone, the extreme weather shelter relocated to Cloverdale Christian Fellowship at 102-17802 66 Avenue.
And the soup kitchen moved to Pacific Community Church at 5337 180 Street, where three different church groups help feed the needy and near-homeless.
The Korean Presbyterian Church provides a hot lunch on Thursdays, Cloverdale Christian Fellowship runs a soup kitchen on Thursdays at 6:30 p.m., and there’s a Monday night cafe operated by Pacific Community Church.
The kitchen, if you can call it that, is modest.
“It’s a classroom with a stove in it,” said Jim Heuving, Pacific Community Church’s executive pastor. “It’s really limiting and not very cost-effective.”
The church is one of nine local agencies working with homeless that are receiving a share of nearly $240,000 in grant money from the City of Surrey and the Surrey Homelessness and Housing Society.
Pacific Community Church is getting a $25,000 grant to help build a commercial kitchen it’s hoped will enhance the existing soup kitchen initiatives and lead to other programs.
The grant will only cover part of the project, so the church will be involving local businesses once the costs are firmed up, Heuving said.
Once complete, the new kitchen will have a dishwashing system, oven, steamer, kettle pot and be highly functional, opening up potential for training cooks.
“We are calling it a ‘community kitchen’,” Heuving said, “because it is a kitchen where we hope a number of like-minded groups can use it to provide help and resource for those in need or near to need.”
The project has been endorsed by the Cloverdale Homeless Committee, a catalyst for the project, Heuving said, citing past Staff/Sgt. Shirley Steele of the Cloverdale/Port Kells District office and the Cloverdale Chamber’s Reid as instrumental – they approached the church after the previous soup kitchen was demolished along with the old Cloverdale Mall.
Meanwhile, the City of Surrey is moving ahead with building an animal shelter next door to Hyland House Cloverdale on Colebrook Road, presenting some potential volunteer opportunities for residents.
Fedos is concerned, however, about the lack of affordable and supportive housing, a looming crisis as the population ages.
Surrey’s homeless and shelter residents are aging, too. “That brings in some unique needs,” he said.
The task for the wider population is to remain aware of the issues, and, where possible, advocate for more supportive and affordable housing solutions.
Eighty percent of the homeless are served through shelters, Fedos said.
“But we need to be able to move them on.”