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White Rock council to consider funding warming centre

With a lack of warming centres in South Surrey, White Rock council are to weigh its options
White Rock council on April 14, 2020 stopped short of approving use of the White Rock Community Centre as a temporary shelter for the homeless. (File photo)

White Rock council are to consider options for a day-time warming centre in the city.

Council are to receive a corporate report from director of recreation and culture Eric Stepura at Monday’s (Jan. 10) regular meeting on temporary warming shelter options.

The report notes that in late December 2021, council received letters from local residents and the Homelessness Association of BC asking council to create a warming centre in the South Surrey and White Rock area.

However, the city did not have any unused civic facilities to address the need. The corporate report said that there was also a staffing shortage over the holiday season due to previously scheduled vacations and sick leave.

An additional challenge, the report notes, is that providing services for people experiencing homelessness requires specialized trained workers who are experienced in dealing with people who may have mental health or addiction challenges.

April 2020: White Rock council mulls help for homeless

“As City recreation centre staff are not trained to work with people facing homelessness who often are experiencing health, mental health and addiction, staff reached out and received a quote of $3,000/day from the Engaged Communities of Canada Society (ECCS) for operating a warming shelter for up to 30 people experiencing homelessness in South Surrey and White Rock, or $1,750/day for up to 10 people. ECCS is available to start operating a warming shelter as early as January 15 once a suitable facility is identified,” the report said.

City staff are to offer three options for council’s consideration, which range from $167,550 to $212,750, to establish a warming centre from Jan. 15 to the end of February. Of the estimated costs, each option includes $135,000 for contracted staff.

The first option includes the rental and installation of a warming centre tent with heat, power, portable washrooms, portable hand sink, staffing and overnight security. The tent is proposed for the gravel parking lot on the corner of Russell Avenue and Johnston Road.

The proposal is to cost $171,000, with $15,000 for a heated tent.

The second option for consideration involves the city opening several rooms, the washroom, and the kitchen of the White Rock Community Centre from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. with trained contracted staff working with the guests.

The estimated cost of the second option is $212,750. The budget includes an estimated revenue loss of $50,000 from hall rental and program cancellations.

The third option to be presented to council includes a hybrid option of offering a warming centre in the White Rock Community Centre from Jan. 11 to Jan. 25, then relocate it to a temporary warming shelter tent at the gravel parking lot near Johnston Road and Russell Avenue.

“The advantages of this option are that a warming shelter will be made available sooner, there will be more time available to arrange the warming tent, and there will be less impact on regular recreation programs held at White Rock Community Centre,” the report notes.

The third option is to cost $167,550, with $10,000 for a heated tent, and an expected $7,500 loss in revenue from community centre programs and hall rental cancellations.

March 2021: White Rock nixes warming shelter for this season

In each option, the city notes that the cost could be lower by reducing staff levels if the weather between now and the end of February is warmer. The cost could also be greater if more cold weather occurs in March.

A fourth option to be reviewed by council is that the city could wait to secure funding from other governments or charitable sources prior to opening a warming centre.

“In the past, the responsibility for providing warming shelters for local people experiencing homeless has been borne by the local faith community, with financial assistance from the Provincial Government,” the report read.

“The City of Surrey does not support funding a warming shelter in South Surrey, despite the majority of local people experiencing homelessness are located in the South Surrey area.”

About the Author: Aaron Hinks

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