WHALLEY — Surrey council has extended the lease for Whalley’s temporary Boulevard Shelter to May 31, 2020.
The site, at 10677 Whalley Boulevard in an old Dell Beer and Wine store, opened as a winter shelter in December, 2015.
That was after Surrey went without a winter shelter for two years.
“It’s very exciting,” Councilor Vera LeFranc said at the time. “It’s really great news … . Winter shelters save lives.”
It was later decided the Boulevard Shelter would operate year round.
The 6,700-square-foot building was renovated before opening, and has operated as a shelter ever since.
In February of this year, council approved an extension for the temporary shelter, through to May 31, 2018.
On Monday night, city council voted to extend it once again, to 2020.
As BC Housing covers operating costs of the operation, the city will now apply for operational funding for the same period of time.
LeFranc said council was “really pleased” to extend the lease.
“We are thrilled we can continue to have Boulevard Shelter there because they do such great work,” she told the Now-Leader. “Winter shelters have been open year round because of the high need, and they’ve had great success from the Boulevard Shelter in moving people on to housing.”
LeFranc said Surrey is trying to address the housing shortage, as well.
“We’re trying to bring in modular and temporary housing before winter sets in, but the Boulevard Shelter is an important component of the shelter we provide.”
In late September, Premier John Horgan announced Surrey would be getting 150 modular housing units to help house its homeless population, and another 600 for Vancouver.
“Staff are working so hard on that,” LeFranc said when asked when those would be arriving. “We have to identify pieces of property and we also have to service those properties so you’ll see those announcement rolled out over the next couple of months.
“I just hope this winter isn’t as cold as last year,” she added.
The 2017 Metro Vancouver Homeless count found 602 homeless people in Surrey, which is a 49 per cent increase from the last count in 2014.
Of the hundreds counted in Surrey, 114 were seniors.
While the city has extreme weather shelters, they’re only open at night, meaning the homeless have to leave and spend their whole day outside.
Surrey and White Rock extreme weather shelters were called to open early this month.
While the emergency program officially runs from Nov. 1 to March 31, emergency shelter beds opened for four nights during a rainy storm in late October.
All told, there are 60 extreme weather spots available this year, called to open when temperatures dip low or extended rainfall. They are in addition to the city’s permanent shelters.