GUILDFORD — Surrey council has approved a winter shelter for the homeless in Guildford.
The city-owned building at 14716 104th Ave. is sandwiched between the community RCMP office and Great Canadian Superstore on 104th Avenue.
Like other winter shelters, it would operate on a 24-hour, seven-day-a-week basis for a six-month period.
Councillor Tom Gill was the lone voice of opposition, voting against the project.
“I think the proximity to Hjorth Road Elementary and Hjorth Road Park itself, just steps away, I’m quite concerned in terms of the number of kids that utilize that park,” said Gill during Monday’s meeting. “I’m not sure there is a good spot in the city for one of these operations but certainly, I’m not feeling good about this location so I will not be able to support it tonight.”
Other members of council voted in favour, but with conditions that the shelter be a pilot project and reviewed after its first year.
“While it is perhaps in proximity to a park, because we have so many parks in the city, I’m not sure we could find a place that wasn’t close to a park,” said Mayor Linda Hepner. “If it has anywhere near the success that we saw last year with the Boulevard (winter) shelter then we have done a good thing. We also have permanent shelters going up and we’ve approved those, but until it gets built we need a winter shelter.”
Councillor Judy Villeneuve said the Boulevard Shelter, which began as a winter shelter, is now running year round because it’s been “extremely successful,” adding it has housed 40 people in the last few months.
“I’m really deeply concerned about the numbers and the influx of homeless folks that we have to our street, and the public disorder it is causing,” said Councillor Vera LeFranc, adding she lives half a block away. “I have to lead by example.”
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(Photo: Google Maps)
Councillor Bruce Hayne said he’s been a vocal proponent of finding shelter space outside of City Centre after the Downtown Surrey BIA spoke as a delegation about wanting to spread social services beyond its area. “I would certainly be somewhat hypocritical now to oppose this,” noted Hayne, but he too had concerns about the location’s proximity to parks and a school.
“Now that council has approved this pilot project for one winter, we will be working with BC Housing as they will choose the operator for the facility and provide the required operating funds,” said Surrey’s manager of planning and development Jean Lamontagne.
The two-storey 7,137-square-foot building requires several renovations to turn it into a winter shelter including installing walls; modifying plumbing, electrical and mechanical systems; adding washrooms and showers; creating food facilities and more. The city hopes to keep the costs of renovations under $200,000 and renovations could be complete by year’s end.