Police and outreach workers meet Friday morning with Roy Mercer (centre) and Darlene Fox (second from left)

Couple evicted after decade in South Surrey woods

Property owner says City of Surrey leaves him little choice.

A homeless couple who have made camp on private property in South Surrey for nearly 10 years have been given until Nov. 1 to clear out.

Roy Mercer and Darlene Fox received the news on Sept. 23, delivered by a half-dozen RCMP officers and one City of Surrey bylaw officer, who explained they were acting on a complaint.

“(They) came in here and told me I had to be out in 30 days,” Mercer, 56, told Peace Arch News on Friday.

“There’s something wrong here. Ask anybody around here if I’ve done them any wrong and they would say no.”

Police and city officials both say the ‘eviction’ was triggered by a complaint; as well, that the property owner “doesn’t want them here anymore.”

Jas Rehal, manager of bylaws and licensing in Surrey, said the issue is “between the owner and the individuals living there.”

“Ultimately, the owner has to address this,” Rehal said by email.

Property owner Gary Crowder said he is reluctant to ask them to leave, but it is a step he knew would be taken eventually: the city is enforcing its rules.

“I’ve known for several years that we are in violation of city bylaws,” Crowder told PAN. “If I were to let them stay there now… I’d be subject to legal action from the City of Surrey.

“It’s not me, it’s not my choice to tell them to leave, it’s just that the city has given me no other option.”

Mercer and Fox have been homeless since 2002. They fled to South Surrey from Whalley because it felt safer, eventually finding their way to Crowder’s forested property, a site tucked between Highway 99 and 32 Avenue.

Crowder said he learned from a neighbour that they were there, but “I didn’t have the heart to order them to leave.”

Over the years, Mercer and Fox have found what they need in area dumpsters, recycle bins and even at the roadside; selling what they can and supplementing their less-than-luxurious existence with money earned collecting bottles.

Their compound has grown from a single tent to include a makeshift cabin, storage shelters and piles of the various items they’ve collected along the way, much of it sorted and waiting for pickup.

“Everything here’s been found within a couple-block radius,” Fox, 40, said. “It’s all getting recycled. Just a long, roundabout way of doing it.”

The couple pride themselves on returning lost or stolen items they’ve found in their forays; repairing cast-off items such as bicycles for donation to a local church; not collecting welfare; and on helping keep area businesses clean and free of crime.

Those efforts have not gone unnoticed.

“Roy’s been helping me out for 10 years,” said Phil Declerc, who owns nearby Suds City Carwash.

“They keep the place spotless. They’re not thieves. They don’t live off society.”

Friday, three RCMP officers and two outreach workers visited the couple, to offer “some options on where they can go.”

“We’re trying to play by the rules here,” said Const. Christie Dixon. “I understand that this is their home.”

Mercer said he was told they’d have to give up most of their belongings and it’s unlikely he and Fox could be housed together.

While it is a civil matter at the moment, police say it could escalate if Nov. 1 comes and they receive a report that the couple are trespassing.

Crowder said he is trying to remain optimistic.

“I’ve been satisfied with the status quo,” he said. “I’d be happier if their campsite were tidier (but) that alone I don’t think would be enough to satisfy city hall.”


Surrey North Delta Leader

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Police watchdog finds cops blameless for deaths in 2019 Surrey hostage-taking

Woman was killed as ERT officers fired on man holding a knife to her throat and ‘what appeared to be’ a gun in his hand

Some Surrey landlords ‘kicking out’ businesses that can’t make rent

Surrey Board of Trade CEO suspects situation will be worse in May

UPDATE: Catalytic converters stolen from four ambulances being repaired in Delta

The thefts were reported on March 31, and police say they have no suspects at this time

Surrey RCMP not seeing ‘significant loss’ in ranks because of COVID-19

Surrey Mounties say they have a good tracking system to keep tabs on police officers experiencing an illness

First Nations, remote communities need special attention in pandemic, Freeland says

Health-care workers, seniors, Indigenous Peoples some of people most at risk, health officials say

Some April Fool’s Day jokes bring much-needed laughter; others tone deaf to COVID-19

Police are warning the public not to use the ongoing pandemic as a punchline

Canada’s 75% wage subsidy is coming, but not for several weeks: finance minister

Subsidy will cost Canada $71 billion, but push down cost of emergency benefit, Morneau said

Call before you dig into spring projects during isolation: BC 1 Call

BC 1 Call gives free checks for utilities in the area of a desired outdoor project

B.C.’s intersection speed cameras putting more tickets in the mail

One Nanaimo location delayed after speed limit reduced

Update: Coquihalla re-opens, after incident requiring a medevac

DriveBC warns of continued delays and congestion

B.C. records five new COVID-19 deaths, ‘zero chance’ life will return to normal in April

Province continue to have a recovery rate of about 50 per cent

B.C. teen donating stem cells for brother’s second fight with cancer

Chilliwack’s Fleming family appealing to the public to look into stem cell donation

High cost, limited coverage for asthma medicine a concern during COVID-19 pandemic

B.C. man says he skips puffs to save money, but others have it worse

Most Read