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South Surrey/White Rock seasonal shelters close, but need remains

‘That stop-and-go – it’s not sustainable, it’s not working’
The Peninsula Homeless to Housing task force meets the first Friday of each month. The meetings are currently held virtually. (File photo)

The emergency weather shelter at Mount Olive Lutheran Church in South Surrey has officially closed for the season, logging 112 openings since late October.

In an update to members of the Peninsula Homeless to Housing committee, volunteer co-ordinator Kathy Booth said everything related to the shelter was moved out of the South Surrey site and back to Peninsula United Church on Friday (April 1), as funding for the season has ended.

Booth lauded Mount Olive as “really wonderful hosts,” and said some 2,100 guests took advantage of the overnight shelter it offered from the cold and wet.

READ MORE: South Surrey extreme-weather shelter relocating

But just because funding has ended doesn’t mean the shelter is no longer needed, Booth noted.

There are “still people in the community out there now needing a place to stay,” she said.

Booth and others have been advocating for a “24/7, wraparound, year-round site” for more than a year now.

Meeting facilitator Adrianna Spyker agreed the current system, while helping, is just a Band-Aid.

“That stop-and-go – it’s not sustainable, it’s not working,” she said.

Operators of White Rock’s daytime warming centre – set up in a mobile trailer in the Centennial Park parking lot from Feb. 1 to March 15 – have also echoed the call for year-round services.

Upkar Singh Tatlay, executive director of Engaged Communities Canada Society, told council on March 28 that the warming centre accommodated more than 486 visits over its 35 days, averaging 17 guests per day but welcoming as many as 30.

READ MORE: ‘So much happening’ at White Rock daytime warming centre

In addition to providing a heated shelter and hot meals, the services saved six guests from overdoses and staved off severe infections in others; as well, several individuals benefited from a series of counselling sessions, he said.

Another six were transitioned to permanent housing and/or into treatment, Tatlay added.

But, “we need to have a continuous operation,” Tatlay said, citing a “marked decline” seen in guests following periods when the centre closed for a few days.

“It destabilized a population that was already under-served.”

Another sign that the need for increased services is on the rise is being seen at Sources’ White Rock & South Surrey Food Bank.

Manager Jaye Murray told PH2H attendees that the biggest change she’s seeing at the food bank is in the number of homeless individuals coming in for hampers.

On a recent distribution day, 18 bags were of food were distributed to such individuals; a number Murray described as “unusual.”
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Tracy Holmes

About the Author: Tracy Holmes

Tracy Holmes has been a reporter with Peace Arch News since 1997.
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