Whalley Printers owner Pete Nichols and Crime Prevention Coordinator Colleen Staresina sit in on a brainstorming session on homelessness Tuesday.

Surrey businesses brainstorm on homelessness

Group calls for national housing strategy and more affordable housing

Mark lived on the “mean streets” of Toronto for years.

Ravaged by his lifestyle, he was often seen by his nieces begging for money downtown. Out of shame, embarrassment and pity, they turned and walked away, so as not to be seen.

“Despite his demeanor, he was a gentle soul,” an emotional Peter Simpson said of his younger brother. “We told him we loved him, and he was gone.”

He finally succumbed to the damage caused by his lifestyle.

Simpson, also the President and CEO of the Greater Vancouver Home Builders Association, told the story Tuesday to a group of about 100 at Eaglequest Golf Course during a brainstorming session called a Business and Homelessness Dialogue hosted by the Surrey Board of Trade.

Homelessness is not so much about housing, but about a loss of “connectedness,” said Simpson, who also sits on Surrey’s Homelessness and Housing Society.

He listed several reasons why business should get involved with helping solve the problem, including lower health and social costs, stronger economy, healthier work environment.

“More than that, it’s the right thing to do,” he said.

Simpson was followed by Graham Newberry, who accessed local services four years ago to get his own life back and has since become a successful realtor.

The audience then broke into groups of about 15,  to discuss how homelessness affects their community and business and what can be done about it.

Colleen Staresina, Crime Prevention Coordinator for Whalley, offered a list of effects homelessness brings to the community, includng; an illusion of disorder, fear of crime, increased calls for service from police, city response and issues of mental health and addiction.

Government can throw a lot of money and support at these things, she said, but unless it’s coordinated, it will be of little use.

Pete Nichols, owner of Whalley Printers, said his community in North Surrey has decayed since the creation of the social services on 135 A Street in Whalley, including the Front Room Drop In Centre.

Nichols feels the term homelessness has just become a “catch phrase” for a host of problems plaguing society, including mental health and addiction.

To adequately deal with homelessness, the root problems have to be isolated and fixed.

Staresina cautioned the breakout group that often the homeless are looked on as vermin, “and the police as pest control.”

Coast Capital’s Jack Boyce later summarized the group’s comments by telling the crowd there’s a huge fear of the homeless and that the community has to take ownership of the issue. He noted that public education will be key, as will more affordable housing and supported housing for people with mental illness.

He said business can play several roles, including encouraging government to hire the homeless.

Common themes among those reporting to the group were a need for more affordable housing, a national housing strategy and a continuing dialogue amongst business leaders to find innovative solutions.

Anita Huberman, CEO of the Surrey Board of Trade, said there will be a follow up “Call to Action” prepared by this November.

It will include many of the recommendations that arose from Tuesday’s event, including the need for a national housing strategy and more affordable housing.

The board will also be polling civic officials on the subject prior to the municipal election and making those findings public.

@diakiw

 

Surrey North Delta Leader

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

Just Posted

Girls, women try their hand at marine rescue in Surrey

Achieve Anything Foundation, RCMSAR Crescent Beach host ‘Operation: This IS You! Saving Lives at Sea’

White Rock cadets nab medals at Vernon competition

Thirteen members of 907 Squadron compete at regional meet

Surrey boy living with congenital heart disease to speak at local Tedx event

Mason Vander Ploeg will be speaking on saving the oceans

VIDEO: 2020 BC Winter Games wrap up in Fort St. John as torch passes to Maple Ridge

More than 1,000 athletes competed in the 2020 BC Winter Games

Winds up to 70 km/hr expected across Metro Vancouver

Winds are expected to subside overnight

Still six cases of COVID-19 in B.C. despite reports of Air Canada passenger: ministry

Health ministry wouldn’t comment on specific flight routes

Violent ends to past Indigenous protests haunt Trudeau government

Trudeau adopted a more assertive tone Friday, insisting the barricade must come down

Fraser Health warns some schools of possible COVID-19 exposure

A sixth COVID-19 patient is a woman in her 30s in the Fraser Health region who recently returned from Iran

High-risk sex offender cuts off ankle bracelet, on the loose in Vancouver: police

Vancouver police said Kirstjon Olson, 38, is a provincial sex offender with 27 court-ordered conditions

HIGHLIGHTS: Day one and two at the 2020 BC Winter Games

Athletes had sunny – but cold – weather to work with in Fort St. John

Most Read