Remnants of a homeless camp in the 2800-block of 164 Street in South Surrey. (File photo)

Co-ordinated homelessness strategy would be ‘dream come true’ for Surrey/White Rock

Abbotsford’s efforts shared with Peninsula Homeless to Housing task force

An integrated system developed in Abbotsford to help prevent and respond to homelessness could “absolutely” be scaled to work in a community such as White Rock, members of the Peninsula Homeless to Housing Task Force heard recently.

Dena Kae Beno, housing and homelessness co-ordinator for the City of Abbotsford, shared her city’s strategy with the local task force during a presentation earlier this month.

Driven by $400,000 received in 2015 for research, the strategy ultimately arose “out of a very unfortunate incident” that occurred in 2013, Beno said. In June of that year, city workers dumped chicken manure on a site frequented by Abbotsford’s homeless population.

READ MORE: City will deal internally with manure-dumping on homeless camp

READ MORE: UPDATE: City, homeless advocates both pleased with case outcome

The incident was among actions cited in a lawsuit which resulted in conditions, including that the city allow homeless individuals to camp overnight in some parks.

But it was also “an impetus” that led to recommendations for the prevention and response system, Beno said.

“That plan recognized that the city could not solve this alone,” she said.

The funding received in May 2015 was for the research and development of a co-ordinated intake and referral model. “Collaborative mapping” that followed represented the perspectives of 175 stakeholders, Beno said, and was a critical step in rebuilding relationships in the community.

“It was a very rich and deep process, because people actually saw their perspectives and their voices represented,” she said. “It was more about, this is a common issue that our societies have.”

Also important in the process was the realization that steps mapped out were not meant to be tackled alone. Beno said body language took a noticeable shift when that clicked during presentation of the strategy to a room that included Abbotsford city councillors.

Beno said a community hub centre that opened in Abbotsford combines everything from housing and mental health services to laundry access and a food bank. A focus on interrupting vulnerability earlier – striving to do better at supporting needs ahead of crisis, by building a circle of support around an individual – has gone a long way, she said.

She recounted a story of one man who was helped through the hub to reconnect with a daughter he hadn’t spoken to in 15 years. The effort “touched about seven of our local agencies,” Beno said.

And, there is a ripple effect, she said.

“If we can create a system or infrastructure that can support the most vulnerable in our community, then we’re creating an infrastructure that can support everyone to thrive.”

Abbotsford, she noted, still has “a lot of work to do.”

PH2H chair Rick Bayer described the direction Beno chronicled as “very inspiring.”

“Hopefully, we’ll see something like that come to Surrey and White Rock,” he said.

Another task force member commented that the co-ordination of agencies and services is “like a dream come true.”

Beno lauded the role that Abbotsford council has played, describing them as “so engaged.”

“When the city did lean in, with courage, that’s where our work began,” she said. “I would just encourage you to have those conversations.”

For municipalities wanting to embark on a similar path, she said it’s key to start with stakeholders and areas of capability, “then you can scale it to the resources you have here.”



tholmes@peacearchnews.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

White Rock neighbours to host second-annual ‘Feast for Friends’

Victoria Terrace residents to raise money for food bank

Sold-out in Surrey: the ‘Second Coming of Delamont’s ‘God is a Scottish Drag Queen’

‘The title tends to scare a few people away,’ Victoria-based performer says of his hit show

Task force brainstorms on support for Semiahmoo homeless community

Community service providers gather to discuss options for housing, income safety and more

Two people reportedly sent to hospital after two-vehicle collision in Surrey

Collision happened on the 16500-block of 64 Avenue

Ride-hailing arrives in North Delta

Uber’s picking up passengers in North Delta, Ladner, but Tsawwassen is still waiting for the service

Officials reaching out to those in contact with Canada’s first coronavirus patient

The illness has sickened at least 1,975 people and killed 56 in China

Canada’s basketball community mourns Kobe Bryant after helicopter crash

Bryant was an 18-time NBA all-star who won five championships

‘Devastated’: Fans, celebrities remember Kobe Bryant after his death

Bryant played all of his 20-year career with the NBA with the Los Angeles Lakers

Kobe Bryant, daughter killed in California helicopter crash

Bryant entered the NBA draft straight out of high school in 1996

Investigation launched after six dead puppies dumped in Richmond hotel parking lot

RAPS reminds people they can always give up puppies they can’t take care of

Canadian Lunar New Year celebrations dampened by coronavirus worries

But Health Minister Patty Hajdu said today that the risk of infection is low

Man clings to roof of car driving along busy road in Maple Ridge

The man was also seen jumping on the vehicle

B.C. VIEWS: New coronavirus outbreak an important reminder

Walking the line between cautious and alarmist

Most Read