Judy Peterson and White Rock Mayor Darryl Walker walk the city’s waterfront Wednesday morning as part of efforts to connect with people who are homeless on the Semiahmoo Peninsula. (Tracy Holmes photo)

Identifying homeless is ‘the biggest selling point’ for funding: White Rock mayor

Volunteers dedicated a 24-hour period this week to updating the region’s data on homelessness

The trials of living on the edge of homelessness are all-too-familiar for Gail McBride.

She has a close friend who has lived in “derelict” conditions in Whalley for about 20 years, and knows a senior in White Rock who is foregoing medications in order to afford housing.

While those two people, because they are paying rent, don’t meet the criteria of homeless that was used in this week’s 2020 Homeless Count – conducted to gain key information on the estimated number, demographics and needs of Metro Vancouver’s homeless – their situations were prominent in McBride’s decision to once again pitch in.

“He’s like a brother to me,” the South Surrey resident said Wednesday of her friend, as she waited in the White Rock Community Centre to start her shift at Sources’ Women’s Place.

“They still need to get the count and the services for the people. I think the need has increased, unfortunately.”

The count – conducted every three years since 2002 – started Tuesday evening and was scheduled to continue through to midnight March 4 (after Peace Arch News’ press deadline). While Tuesday evening was focused on the region’s shelters, teams of two to three volunteers took to the streets from 6 a.m. Wednesday in an effort to get as complete a picture of the overall situation as possible.

In White Rock/South Surrey, that included attending a handful of community lunch programs, patrolling the waterfront promenade and driving routes that stretched east to 196 Street and north to Highway 10.

Judy Peterson and White Rock Mayor Darryl Walker were among four volunteers to turn out to the community centre at 6 a.m. Wednesday.

The pair was sent to the waterfront, while two others were given an area of uptown White Rock to explore.

Despite their best efforts – and a freezer bag of sundry “offerings” to help break the ice with potential survey participants – Peterson and Walker said they didn’t encounter a single person who met the survey criteria.

The one woman they did approach was sitting down on the beach, with a bag. The interaction was pleasant, starting with an introduction and asking if she had seen anybody who might be homeless.

She said ‘no,’ and went on to explain that she was staying with her brother but that he had had overnight friends and she preferred not to be there.

“We didn’t go any further,” Walker said.

The experience was Walker’s first time participating in a homeless count, although he has done shifts at White Rock’s extreme-weather shelter.

Peterson, who has volunteered at the extreme-weather shelter for the past two years, said her first homeless-count shift was “quite a few years ago” in Surrey, and that she returned this year because “I’m retired, and it’s always been an interest of mine.”

Both said that they didn’t set out Wednesday expecting to find many homeless along their assigned route, in part because they started an hour before the extreme-weather shelter closed for the day, and also because the route didn’t include alleys, vacant homes or parks, as many other areas did.

As well, “this is probably one of the coldest places,” Peterson said.

“There’s spots in White Rock that would be better to go than simply along here,” Walker said, noting local police and fire officials are an important link when it comes to identifying both individuals who are homeless and where they hunker down.

Walker said he signed up for the count to learn more about what is happening in the community – and glean information necessary to advocate for funding to address homelessness.

Hard data that shows the need “is the big selling point,” he said.

One pressing question of late has been, where do those who use the extreme-weather shelter at night go during the day?

Efforts are ongoing to figure that out – an ad hoc discussion was planned for a White Rock coffee shop later Wednesday morning – and to come up with options. Walker said ideas being looked at in White Rock include whether the city has property it can offer for an affordable-housing development, and, can warming shelters be implemented into such projects.

He noted that recently-completed or under-construction developments in the city do not offer a solution.

“None of those buildings are for the people we’re talking about,” he said.

Final results of the 2020 Homeless Count are not expected to be released until the fall. In the last count, 3,605 people were identified to be experiencing homelessness in Metro Vancouver. Forty-six of those were identified in White Rock/Delta.

HomelessHomelessnessSurreyWhite Rock

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

 

Volunteer Pat Petrala (in blue) debriefs with count participants with (from left) Gail McBride, Judy Peterson and Pat Heslop, following Peterson’s early morning shift on the waterfront, ahead of McBride’s shift at Sources’ Women’s Place and in-between Heslop’s Tuesday night shift at Pacific Community Church in Cloverdale and that on the road in east White Rock Wednesday afternoon. (Tracy Holmes photo)

Just Posted

Thousands of ‘PPE’ donated in Surrey, where one care home is ‘preparing for the worst’

SafeCare BC’s Operation Protect drive involves drop-off dates in Guildford

Psychologist’s advice on parenting in the pandemic

SFU psychology prof Dr. Tanya Broesch, with expertise in child development, discusses short and long-term impacts COVID-19 pandemic is having on children and parents alike

‘Every little step counts’: Surrey businesses donate meals for frontline hospital workers

Surrey Hospital Foundation has now received more than $70,000 in donations

‘Shocking decision’: Surrey soccer club won’t offer refunds to 350 teams for cancelled tourney

Registration fees would top $171K for Surrey Mayor’s Cup, called off due to COVID-19

VIDEO: Dog missing in Aldergrove since winter sees his family again for the first time

Aldergrove helped find Buster, says dad, who has now witnessed ‘the power of social media’

Trudeau rejects mandatory stay-at-home order for now; COVID deaths up

The virus has now infected more than 10,000 Canadians and cost 130 their lives

B.C. health care workers gain access to virtual health care options

During COVID-19 many clinics have closed, leaving health care workers with nowhere to turn

Tax collectors, auditors to help field ‘historic’ numbers of benefit-seeking callers

‘If you work for CRA, people think we are just there to take money from your pockets.’

Cowichan couple won’t self-isolate after returning from overseas

New law requires 14 days of self-isolation when returning to Canada

Family uses social media to help truckers find places to eat during pandemic

Restaurants Serving Drivers in Western Canada seeks to provide a list of places open for drivers

Advocates sound alarm over COVID-19 limiting access to contraceptives, abortion

The COVID-19 outbreak has hit sexual-health services from almost every angle

Abbotsford man who tries to start gas-station fight gets sprayed with gasoline

Suspect returns with knife and throws it at victim, but is quickly arrested by police

Abbotsford family of 5 who was stuck in Vietnam is now back home

Janzen family sends ‘huge and heartfelt’ thank you to everyone who helped

Most Read