The new “pods” set up at the temporary emergency response shelter, which was set up at the old North Surrey Recreation Centre to help stop the spread of COVID-19. (Submitted photo: Mike Musgrove)

The new “pods” set up at the temporary emergency response shelter, which was set up at the old North Surrey Recreation Centre to help stop the spread of COVID-19. (Submitted photo: Mike Musgrove)

‘Pods’ set up at Surrey homeless centre

Temporary shelter set up in April to help stop the spread of COVID-19

Surrey’s temporary emergency response centre, which was set up to reduce the spread of COVID-19, hasn’t had a positive case yet.

The Surrey Urban Mission Society-run centre, located in the old North Surrey Recreation Centre, opened April 7. By April 9, their first person arrived, but they didn’t have COVID-19.

When speaking to SUMS executive director Mike Musgrove at the end of May, he said the centre currently had 23 people recovering from colds and cases of flu.

“We haven’t had a COVID-positive result yet, so that’s really great,” said Musgrove, adding that while he doesn’t know the “exact” number of COVID-19 test done by volunteers, they have done “a lot of tests.”

READ ALSO: ‘The worst is we’re full – both arenas’: North Surrey Rec Centre taking in sick homeless population, April 11, 2020

He said the centre has allowed the homeless population to have a place to recover, “without being on the street and sick.”

“When people were outside and sick, it was always just so rough. It’s rough for anyone who’s got the flu, but to be stuck outside and not have a place to stay warm or even sleep it off.”

While volunteers haven’t “calculated the average stay,” Musgrove said he figures it’s about six days. But he added that they encourage people to stay for the full 14 days.

And since opening, the homeless centres have received a bit of an upgrade from the physically distanced cots.

Musgrove said in late-April, he heard that the centres would be getting “pods” for people to stay in.

The “pods” have an L-shaped wall, giving a bit of privacy between each of the new beds.

“It looks like we care about the folks that are sick and non-housed. That’s what it looks like and it’s pretty wonderful,” Musgrove said of the new setup. “It’s just constant improvement and growth and willingness to do what it takes to improve as much as possible.”

Because of the pandemic, Musgrove said it has “brought to light” not just the improvement in care for seniors, but also the homeless population.

“With the isolation and things, maybe people have a bit of understanding or maybe more time to listen to these things, but… we have some room for improvement here with our care for our most vulnerable citizens, whether they’re people suffering with addictions and mental health or our seniors. These are tricky times for the best of us.”

The Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing announced 900 new spaces at 23 sites, including hotels, motels and community centres throughout B.C., for the vulnerable population to self-isolate.

READ ALSO: Old North Surrey rec centre converted to ‘safe spaces’ for homeless during COVID-19, April 7, 2020

The North Surrey Rec Centre, which is being operated by SUMS, is one of those spaces that was announced on April 7. It is a 110-bed centre.

The building has been vacant since December, when the rec centre closed its doors for good.

Asked how long the site could be operational, Musgrove said he doesn’t know. SUMS hasn’t been given a timeline yet for when it could close.

“We want to do our best every day and if they tell us we’re done in June, then we’re done in June, but if they tell us we’re going keep it open until Christmas, then we’re going to stay open until Christmas. If they don’t tell us anything, then we’ll just keep doing our best every day until they do,” he said.

“We do note that restrictions are easing, and we start to think maybe that means that this is coming to an end, but then everyone’s talking about the second wave. Certainly, you don’t want to have to replicate this somewhere else on a second wave. This has taken a lot of work to get going.”