SIMPSON: Contradictions in Surrey’s Vital Signs study make my head hurt

This year, the online survey was focused on newcomers – and what it revealed left me more confused than a goat on AstroTurf.

Beau Simpson is editor of the Now newspaper in Surrey. You can reach him by email at

Even on the best of days, I can be easily confused.

I once filled my dad’s lawnmower with gasoline – in the oil tank (I still blame my parents for leaving me alone that summer).

I also once wrote a 42-point headline on the front page of a daily newspaper that encouraged readers to buy a “Christmas reef” for charity. (I was scuba diving a lot in those days, OK?)

My absent-mindedness can be a common refrain during editorial meetings, especially first thing in the morning – so much so, that a colleague is continually recommending I try taking ginkgo biloba, a supplement made from the leaves of one of the oldest living tree species, believed to sharpen thinking.

It is true that sometimes, it doesn’t take much for something to throw me and my ginkgo biloba-less brain for a loop.

But this year’s Vital Signs report is something different all together.

The online survey was focused on newcomers – and what it revealed left me more confused than a goat on AstroTurf.

For example, the report suggested that the top reason people move to Surrey is affordable housing.

That’s weird, because a few months ago, we told you the heart-wrenching story of Kristina Foley and her three children, who were on the brink of homelessness because they couldn’t find an affordable place to live.

“It’s pretty bad out there,” Foley told us. “A lot of people are being displaced, and forced out of their homes… As a mother on disability, I can’t find a single place within my price range.”

And NDP leader John Horgan said people he talks with in every part of B.C. are concerned about their ability to find affordable housing to rent or buy.

“They know it’s a crisis,” he said.

In July, we told you about Kristina Foley and her three children, who were desperate to find an affordable place to live after Foley’s landlord increased her rent in Whalley. (Photo: TOM ZYTARUK)

And earlier this week, News 980 told us about Jessica Paul, who calls herself one of the “working poor,” and told CKNW she was worried her five-year-old son may be apprehended by the Ministry of Children and Families if they don’t find housing soon.

Paul, who has been living in hotels, told the radio station she’s shocked her family can’t find a place to live locally.

“There’s nowhere for us to go. I’ve pretty well spent everything I have trying to get us a home, and keep a roof over our head while we do that, because nothing has been available.”

The Surrey Urban Mission, along with Options Community Services, are helping the family get back on its feet.

As you can see, something doesn’t add up here.

But to make matters even more confounding, while the report said the No. 1 reason people move to Surrey is affordable housing, it also reported that one in four had a hard time finding a place to live.

You figure it out.

In another example, the online study also reported that even though the city is surrounded by farms and agricultural land, almost a third of newcomers reported they don’t have access to locally grown food.

And the survey also revealed that while two-thirds of newcomers to Surrey feel safe in the city, 57 per cent see crime as the city’s most pressing issue.

I’ll leave it to you to tell me why there seems to be a real disconnect in our city between reality and perception.

But please keep your emails short and to the point.

I’m not taking ginkgo biloba yet.

Beau Simpson is editor of the Now newspaper in Surrey. You can reach him by email at

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