Homeless prevention program announced in Surrey

SURREY – A new funding initiative has been announced that would help keep at-risk people in Surrey and other communities from becoming homeless.


Federal and provincial representatives were on hand at Surrey’s Hyland House Friday (Oct. 17) to announce a new program designed to help out some of the most at-risk groups.


Called the Homeless Prevention Program, the initiative will see the feds and province come up with an estimated $62.5 million over the next five years to provide rent supplements for those at risk of becoming homeless.


The four groups specifically targeted by the initiative are women fleeing violent situations, youth aging out of foster care, those leaving the hospital and correctional system, and aboriginal people.


The idea is to provide funding to vulnerable groups in the form of rent assistance rather than trying to commit funds to purpose-built homes and shelters, and an estimated 4,000 will be served by the program in the next half-decade. Surrey will be one of six communities served by the program, which is estimated to expand to 30 communities in later years.


"Rent supplements offer a more flexible option for many people because they can choose where to live based on what suits their needs," said deputy premier and minister of housing Rich Coleman. "The Homeless Prevention Program builds on our success with other rental assistance programs aimed at addressing homelessness by taking a more proactive approach and helping people in crisis."


Federal minister of state Candice Bergen was also on hand, saying, "our government has taken action to invest in housing and initiatives to combat homelessness because we recognize that having safe, permanent housing is an important first step towards a new transition in life."


Several of Surrey First’s councillors, including Linda Hepner, Judy Villeneuve and council-hopefuls Vera LeFranc and Dave Woods were also in attendance.


Villeneuve, who sits as president on the city’s homeless and housing society said the announcement was significant for Surrey.


"It’s so important that these kinds of dollars come into our community," she said. "$12.5 million per year for that kind of funding is great and we’re really pleased to know that funding will be coming into our community. It’s often that that kind of funding is what people need to leave an abusive situation or help others transition from being on the verge of homelessness."