Not everyone is pleased with Surrey council’s decision to create a homeless shelter in Guildford.
The new 40-bed emergency shelter, approved by city council late last month, will be located in an existing two-storey building at 14716 104 Ave. It is to be “low barrier,” meaning those who are the most challenging to house – the city’s street-entrenched population – will be welcome there. It will be open 24/7 for six months of the year.
While the shelter will be situated right next to an RCMP station, critics – including Surrey Coun. Tom Gill – say the site is still all wrong, noting it is across the street from Hjorth Road Elementary School.
There are those too who argue Guildford has become (along with Newton) a convenient landing spot for the migrating social ills of Whalley – the open drug dealing and frightening street scenes moved along by efforts to revitalize City Centre.
Sixty-one per cent of The Leader’s readers who voted in a recent online poll oppose the location of this new homeless shelter.
But what is the alternative? Shelters are never welcomed with open arms, whether they set up shop in toney enclaves or take over warehouses in more industrial ’hoods.
Shelters are not the ideal solution for anyone – including the homeless. A place to bed down on a nightly basis in sometimes unsanitary, often unsafe conditions for a portion of the year is hardly a stable base from which to launch a rewarding life.
Yet minimum wage languishes at an inadequate $10.85 an hour in a region home to the highest costs of living in the country. Demand for so-called affordable housing is at an all-time high while vacancy rates remain crushingly low. Social assistance levels are stagnant and meaningful help for the mental ill and/or addicted is virtually non-existent.
Yet politicians and policy makers continue to pay lip service to some of the most pressing issues of our time.
In the absence of long-term remedies for chronic poverty, mental illness and substance abuse, stop-gap measures such as shelters may not be wanted, but are sorely needed.