COLUMN: Whalley still needs work

COLUMN: Whalley still needs work

While much has been done to improve North Surrey, there are still many vulnerable people living in the area.

Surrey Coun. Barinder Rasode’s concern about the level of services available to Janice Shore, who recently died after being found badly beaten on Dec. 2 at 106 Avenue and 135A Street, illustrates the need to pay closer attention to social issues.

While the City of Surrey has certainly improved in its overall attitude and approach towards homelessness and social issues that are particularly prominent in Whalley, and to a lesser degree Newton, much work remains to be done. Some parts of Whalley continue to be high-crime areas, and while there are many vulnerable people living in the area, the level of protection and services they receive is sometimes lacking.

The provincial government and Fraser Health Authority play a key role in the services that are made available, and while there have been some improvements, much more could be done.

There have been far too many murders and serious assaults in the area over the years. While an attempt by Surrey to force landlords to either tear down homes or fix them up helped deal with some of the social problems in the area, many continue unabated.

Drug dealers are active in the area. There is significant homelessness. People with mental health issues, such as Shore, live in the area and need ongoing help.

The area north of 104 Avenue, both east and west of King George Boulevard, is an area of specific concern. There are a number of social service providers in that neighbourhood, and they do good work, but many people continue to fall through the cracks.

The presence of SkyTrain in the area isn’t always a benefit. It makes it easy for some less-desirable people to come to Surrey from other parts of the Lower Mainland, and if they are determined to commit a crime, they can also disappear quickly. Transit Police have helped to slow this “Crimetrain” modus operandi somewhat, but they can’t catch everyone.

Surrey council wants the Whalley area to become Surrey City Centre, and is taking steps toward being a major presence in the area. A new Whalley Library has been built, and a new city hall is under construction. Simon Fraser University and its large number of students has brought a new vibrancy to the area, and the presence of many highrises and other newer housing developments has added to both the density and long-term viability of the area.

At the same time, the area is home to some of the most marginalized people in Surrey. No one wants to see a portion of Whalley become like the Downtown Eastside, with all its associated problems, but to prevent that council and the community must be proactive.

Rasode said, “It is important to make sure that there are some measurable outcomes on the type of services that are made available by taxpayers dollars.”

She is correct. Taxpayers aren’t opposed to paying for social services, but they want to be sure they are working properly.

Rasode will be meeting with Coun. Judy Villeneuve, chair of the city’s task force on housing and homelessness, Aileen Murphy, Surrey’s social planner and others in the coming weeks to examine what was available to Shore before she was killed. It behooves all Surrey residents to pay closer attention to this issue.

Frank Bucholtz is the editor of The Langley Times. He writes weekly for The Leader.

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