WHALLEY — The Downtown Surrey BIA doesn’t want another homeless shelter in Whalley.
The proliferation of services in the area is hurting businesses, the group’s board told Surrey City Council Monday night.
“Businesses contact our offices daily with complaints of loiterers, panhandlers, petty theft and requesting our bike patrol to clean up the garbage and the needles,” said BIA CEO Elizabeth Model.
“They ask us why the city and the BIA are not doing more about the constant issues that are facing them. Adding another shelter would be yet another burden on the struggling businesses, the seniors using the legion and the Chuck Bailey rec centre, the youth at the covered skate park and the children’s programs at both the recreation services and centre and the local church programming as well as the mosques nearby.”
Her comments come after the Now broke the story last week that Surrey is looking into creating an additional shelter at 105th Avenue and 135A Street after an increase in homelessness.
That’s in addition to the 40-bed Gateway emergency shelter on 135A Street and Surrey’s existing 40-bed winter shelter at 10677 Whalley Blvd. Another 20 emergency beds at Surrey Urban Mission Society (SUMS) were called to open in April.
All are consistently full.
“Permanent solutions are required and temporary shelters have become the new norm and have been transitioned into year-round facilities.,” said Model Monday night. “But what’s really required is long-term supportive and transitional housing.”
During her presentation to council, Model noted that there are too many social services in the area – eight clinics, 10 pawn shops and cheque cashing stores, 13 methadone-dispensing pharmacies and more.
These attract street people, she said, “resulting in garbage, carts of junk, human excrement and large amounts of needles.”
She added: “We don’t want to produce and reproduce the Downtown East Side here.”
Councillor Bruce Hayne told Model he agreed with her.
“Another shelter on that ‘Strip’ is, from my perspective, not the right location. But we do have to find a location…. It’s an arduous task,” said Hayne.
Councillor Vera LeFranc noted the city had recently rezoned land near Green Timbers Forest for a permanent shelter, and is working on expansion of Cloverdale’s shelter.
“Perhaps it’s not the best location,” she said of the temporary shelter the city is considering, but added it “might be the only location.”
Councillor Dave Woods asked Model if she’d been following the court case in Victoria related to its homeless camp.
“If we are unable to provide beds then the courts have basically said, tent city’s can exist,” said Woods. “So tent city or 135A?”
Model replied that it’s not an “either or.”
“Both have to be cleaned up,” she said. “Businesses are really struggling. There are many businesses who’ve said to the BIA that they’re really thinking seriously of leaving Surrey and closing their doors because they cannot operate under the circumstances…. We have to go back to the drawing board.”