Jonquil Hallgate, Surrey’s extreme weather response co-ordinator, says the search for more spaces this fall and winter is “ulcer-inducing.”
While EWR sites don’t officially open until Nov. 1, Hallgate said the temperature is expected to drop this weekend and she is hoping to have spaces open earlier than the official start date.
“In other years, when it’s been October and the weather’s change, we’ve been able to mobilize and open,” she told the Now-Leader, adding there’s “not one space” available to open.
“I have ulcers wondering what I’m going to do this weekend.”
She said because of the temperature drop, it’s “putting people at risk of their lives if they are cold and wet.”
During Monday’s (Oct. 19) regular council meeting, council received a report from the city’s general manager of planning and development Jean Lamontagne about the EWR sites.
In his report, only five locations have been identified in Surrey and White Rock for this coming winter. That’s only 52 mats for adults and six mats for youths. Two shelters are in Whalley, while Cloverdale, Fleetwood and South Surrey have one each.
Last winter, there were nine EWR shelters in Surrey with 143 spaces for adults and 10 youth spaces for all of Surrey and White Rock.
Lamontagne’s report noted that 46 shelter beds are set to open at the Olive Branch Shelter at the end of October. “Given this information,” he wrote, “a rough estimate of the total number of EWR spaces required in Surrey is 195. This means that an estimated additional 137 spaces are needed (195-58 confirmed spaces).”
However, Hallgate said that as of Thursday (Oct. 22), there are only 26 spaces confirmed; six for women in North Surrey, six for youth and 15 in Fleetwood.
“There’s just a few roadblocks in the way at the moment,” said Hallgate, adding she’s hoping that will change.
“I can’t wait until Nov. 1 when the program starts to find spaces that aren’t available today.”
Hallgate said there is “never” enough resources.
“We all know that cold weather comes every year,” she said. “It’s not a surprise. It always seems like it is.”
Hallgate is putting out a call out to the community for more spaces, and for warm clothing. People can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Extreme weather alerts were called on 99 nights between October 29, 2019 and March 25, 2020.
In January of this year, Hallgate told the Now-Leader that Surrey EWR sites were “all over capacity” because they weren’t turning anyone away due to a cold snap.
– With files from Tom Zytaruk