Mike Musgrove, the executive director of Surrey Urban Mission, is helping to oversee the operations at the old North Surrey Recreation Centre, which is being used for self-isolation and quarantine spaces for the homeless. (Photo: Lauren Collins)

‘The worst is we’re full – both arenas’: North Surrey Rec Centre taking in sick homeless population

‘Emergency response centre’ being operated by Surrey Urban Mission

Mike Musgrove says it feels like a year ago that Surrey Urban Mission Society had someone at their shelter who was sick.

“We didn’t have a quarantine room, it was actually my office at the time,” said Musgrove, the executive director for SUMS.

“There was no space and the hospital, they were strict about you had to have certain levels of need before you could go, so we couldn’t get an ambulance to take a sick person out of the shelter because they weren’t sick enough. We had to figure out other plans… It was crazy it seems like a year ago, but it was probably a week ago, said Musgrove outside of the now-defunct North Surrey Recreation Centre which is being used as a temporary “emergency response centre” for the homeless during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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.

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.

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

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

Musgrove said staff will be taking referrals from shelters, or from “people that are non-housed and still living rough,” and the centre will allow people to stay there until they get better.

“Even if they test negative, we will still allow for them to stay here until they get better so they’re not going back and getting a whole shelter of people sick and then we end up with that all ending up in the hospital,” he said, adding that a lot of the at-risk population is immunocompromised or has respiratory issues.

Previously, Musgrove said, SUMS had a quarantine room so that if someone was feeling sick, they would get moved into that room quickly.

He said that because the shelters have been overcrowded, it “puts the shelter guests and the shelter workers at incredible risk, so we need to get folks out of there right away and then in here.”

At the emergency response centre, Musgrove said, if someone has COVID-19, workers will move to “full gear,” which includes gloves, a mask, a gown and goggles.

“If they’re COVID positive, we have a procedure to get them either to another spot in the building temporarily while we work on another place for them to go.”

There are also protocols for coming in and out of the building, he said. Staff will also be having meetings everyday to make sure they’re “doing everything right.”

On Tuesday (April 7), Musgrove said they were ready to take people in.

The first person arrived on Thursday.

The site had cots lined up in one of the arenas, with six made up for potential patients.

“We’re going to slowly build,” Musgrove said.

“People continue to stay healthy, so hopefully that’s working. We continue to maintain our physical distancing and this goes away and we all go back to our normal lives.”

Asked how those numbers could change in the coming days or weeks, Musgrove said, “It’s going to be just like this. We’re prepared for the best, we’re hoping for the best.”

And what could the worst look like?

“The worst is we’re full – both arenas. That would really be the worst — and to not have space. The worst would be if a shelter were to have an outbreak… People don’t have anywhere to go, so a shelter has an outbreak, people aren’t locked into shelters, they walk out of a shelter and then it just becomes a cluster and then a spiderweb. I don’t know what they call it when it really goes out there. That’d be the worst-case scenario. We’re praying that that doesn’t happen.

READ ALSO: Surrey shelters, service providers reworking programs amid COVID-19 pandemic, March 18, 2020


Like us on Facebook Follow us on Instagram and follow Lauren on Twitter


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


The self-isolation centre for homeless is now set up at the old North Surrey Recreation Centre. (Photo: Lauren Collins)

Just Posted

Surrey addictions officials say pandemic funding is wreaking havoc on those in recovery

Governments’ kindness taking its toll, recovery operators say

Influx of cross-border visitors to Peace Arch Park sparks concern COVID-19 could spike

Police, parks officials say patrols, education and signage have all been increased

Barn catches fire in Surrey

Fire department says ‘pressurized containers’ inside the structure

What June 1 will look like at Surrey schools

High school students following a ‘tutorial model’ where they sign up through a set schedule of times

South Surrey church to host drive-thru food-donation station

Items dropped off to Mount Olive Lutheran Church to benefit Surrey Urban Mission program

Only four new COVID-19 cases, 228 active across B.C.

Health officials watching as activities ramp up

Facing changes together: Your community, your journalists

We’re asking you to lock arms with us, as we look to better days ahead

Feds looking at ways to reunite families amid COVID-19 border restrictions with U.S.

Some families with members of dual-citizenship have become separated due to the pandemic

Condition in kids with possible COVID-19 link being studied in Canada

This month, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued an alert to doctors about MIS-C

‘I knew what he wanted’: Kootenay man spends hours in tree as black bear patrols below

Francis Levasseur is no stranger to the outdoors, but a recent run-in with a bear caused quite a scare

COVID cancelled their wedding plans, so they married on a BC mountaintop

Ceremony was live streamed to friends and family around the world

Trudeau acknowledges racial unrest in U.S.; ‘We also have work to do in Canada’

‘Anti-black racism, racism, is real; it’s in the United States, but it’s also in Canada,’ Trudeau says

State of Local Emergency declared for Boundary as communities brace for river flooding

Warm weather and heavy rain could cause sections of Kettle River system to swell beyond 2018 levels

Large cruise ships barred from Canadian waters until end of October: Garneau

Last year 140 cruise ships brought more than two million visitors to Canadian ports

Most Read