People experiencing homelessness in Surrey will soon have a new temporary safe place to sleep.
The City of Surrey, in collaboration with Fraser Health and BC Housing, is in the process of creating a temporary shelter called Safe Sleep which will be able to accommodate people experiencing homelessness in during the pandemic.
The 60-bed facility is located at 13425 107A Avenue. BC Housing is currently doing renovations on the property and appointing a contractor to run the facility. The goal is to have the site open in the first quarter of 2022.
Phillipa Sanderson, the Safe Sleep project’s lead at the City of Surrey, says there isn’t enough housing for the demand that exists.
“There are people who are currently unhoused or who are currently bouncing in and out of shelters or other temporary housing, who need more stable supportive housing with health and other supports wrapped around them,” Sanderson says. “There is absolutely demand for this.”
Safe Sleep is one of six initiatives advanced with support from the Pandemic Response Package, which received funding from a $14.2 million grant from the Union of British Columbia Municipalities last July.
The initiative will run for one year with the possibility of extending to two. While the city builds and delivers the facility under the grant funding, they want to find other sources of funding to keep it going past the two-year mark.
People who are struggling with any kind of vulnerability need a safe place to stay, Sanderson says.
“We need to have a place as soon as possible for those folks so that we can plan for the future and staircase them into other more permanent housing solutions,” Sanderson says.
According to a press release from the city, the Safe Sleep facility was first put in place in 2018 when people were relocated from their tents on 135A Avenue. It was scheduled to be demolished until the grant funding made it possible to extend the use of the facility.
On Oct.18, the lease of the site on 107A avenue was extended, and in the following month the temporary use permit was also extended.
Bruce Ralston, MLA for Surrey-Whalley, was not available to respond to The Runner’s interview request, but said in the press release that he’s looking forward to seeing the new building come up. He says it will make a “significant positive impact on the homelessness crisis in Surrey.”
“Our government is working to help vulnerable people make lasting changes in their lives, and that begins with a safe and stable roof over their head,” he said.
Shelters are currently operating at reduced capacity, and all of the housing supports available have had to create social distancing space and follow COVID safety protocols.
“We didn’t have enough slots for people before the pandemic. We certainly don’t have enough now. Anything we can do to add to that capacity is a good thing,” she says.
Sanderson says the City of Surrey has more housing options in development for the future.
“We’re working on a number of supportive housing units coming on stream over the next year to 18 months, and future ones planned beyond that, to continue to address the high demand for housing in our city for our most vulnerable residents,” Sanderson says.