COLUMN: More rental housing is key

There has not been a concerted community-wide effort to deal with the problem of homelessness.

A series of stories published in The Surrey-North Delta Leader on Friday, Feb. 26 (read them online at is called “No Fixed Address.” It sheds some welcome light on a challenge which Surrey and many other cities across North America are struggling with.

Most importantly, it features stories and photos of individuals who are or have been homeless. These allow readers to understand these individuals as people who face real challenges. The stories also illustrate the road which leads to homelessness, and the road out of it, is complex.

As is ever the case with human beings, each person’s set of circumstances is unique. And solutions to the problems for each individual are also unique, which is one of the reasons homelessness remains so intractable.

Surrey’s response to homelessness has been somewhere in the middle of the pack when compared to other B.C. communities. The city recognized fairly early, prodded by councillors like Dianne Watts (before she was elected mayor) and Judy Villeneuve, that the problem was real and growing.

The city has not, for the most part, got in the way of the numerous agencies and charities which have done much of the heavy lifting in responding to the needs of the homeless. Rather, it has encouraged them to help. Their efforts have been significant.

However, there has not been a concerted community-wide effort to deal with the problem, even though there are homeless people in all parts of Surrey – including South Surrey, which is the wealthiest area of the city. Roy and Darlene, featured in the series, lived in the bush near 32 Avenue and King George Boulevard for 13 years until the lot was developed.

Most of the efforts to assist those without homes have been concentrated in Whalley, where the problem is perhaps most acute. There has been significant assistance offered in Newton and Cloverdale as well, and a modest amount in South Surrey.

While there are 60 to 80 emergency shelter beds and more available during the winter months, this is not nearly enough. There has been no effort to build a community-wide homeless shelter. This probably makes sense, given Surrey’s large population and sprawling nature. There are homeless people in many parts of the city.

Nonetheless, if there was a more intense community focus on this problem, led by city council, it is possible that there would be more provincial assistance made available.

Many communities as diverse as Langley, Kelowna and Vancouver have given the problem a much higher profile. Through some successful efforts to work together and form community coalitions, they have convinced the provincial government to fund various initiatives to combat homelessness.

It could be argued that these efforts have only amounted to a drop in the bucket. That isn’t fair to the province and various cities involved, as they have put a lot of money and political capital into the issue. Housing Minister Rich Coleman in particular has made available, again and again, funds for shelters, long-term housing, support workers and many other services.

But the problem remains a challenge and one that is almost constantly changing.

Coun. Vera LeFranc, who was first elected to Surrey council in 2014, has been a longtime advocate for strategies to combat homelessness in Surrey. Both she and Villeneuve have been consistent in their commitment to this issue for years.

Will they be able to significantly reduce the number of homeless people in Surrey and will they be able to obtain much-needed housing and support for those who are caught up in the homelessness tangle? Time will tell. Broad support from the community will ensure more is done.

At the same time, one key element of reducing homelessness, as the series of stories points out, is a good supply of affordable rental housing. That is something that Surrey needs to devote much more attention to.

Frank Bucholtz writes weekly for The Leader.


Just Posted

Crashes pile up as snow blankets Surrey

Up to 10 centimetres of snow is in the forecast

How much does your city spend per person on snow removal?

Black Press Media compares 2018 ice and snow removal budgets of various Lower Mainland communities

B.C. BUDGET: Surplus $374 million after bailouts of BC Hydro, ICBC

Growth projected stronger in 2020, Finance Minister Carole James says

Surrey pastor in concert with songs from her new ‘Psalms for a Peaceful Heart’ CD

‘Incredible’ church sanctuary in Whalley a stage for Lori-Anne Boutin-Crawford’s music

Plan to redevelop former Surrey motel site too dense, says Coun. Pettigrew

Pettigrew: ‘We need to build liveable community with green spaces… not massive zones that are densified’

VIDEO: 8 things you need to know about the 2019 B.C. budget

Surplus of $247 million with spending on children, affordability and infrastructure

Ex-Langley spiritual leader cleared of stock trading allegations

Investors allegedly lost $740,000 investing through a local religious organization.

‘Bullet missed me by an inch’: Man recounts friend’s killing at Kamloops hotel

Penticton man witnessed Summerland resident Rex Gill’s murder in Kamloops

B.C. BUDGET: Income assistance raise still leaves many below poverty line

$50 per month increase included in funding for poverty and homelessness reduction

B.C. BUDGET: Indigenous communities promised billions from gambling

Extended family caregiver pay up 75 per cent to keep kids with relatives

B.C. BUDGET: New benefit increases family tax credits up to 96 per cent

BC Child Opportunity Benefit part of province’s efforts to reduce child poverty

B.C. BUDGET: Carbon tax boosts low-income credits, electric vehicle subsidies

Homeowners can get up to $14,000 for heating, insulation upgrades

B.C. man survives heart attack thanks to Facebook

A Princeton man suffered a heart attack while at an isolated property with no cell service

Abbotsford man sues Maxime Bernier’s People’s Party over trademark

Satinder Dhillon filed application for trademark same day Maxime Bernier announced the new party

Most Read