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Supportive housing site proposed for South Surrey

‘We have the opportunity, we have the land, so let’s make it work’
Photos of modular homes being built at 13550 105th Ave. South Surrey may be home to a supportive housing site in the form of modular housing for people experiencing homelessness. (File photo)

After a long battle to establish long-term homelessness services in the Semiahmoo Peninsula, a supportive housing site proposal for the area is in the early stages.

The supportive housing site, proposed for the corner of 168 Street and 8 Avenue, is still pending approval from the city of Surrey. If approved, it would be operated by Engaged Communities Canada Society and developed by Embrace Community Housing Society.

“We have the opportunity, we have the land, so let’s make it work,” Upkar Singh Tatlay from Engaged Communities shared at the monthly Peninsula Homeless to Housing (PH2H) virtual meeting on Friday (April 5).

Tatlay, who has operated White Rock’s daytime warming centre for unhoused people for three years, has wanted to expand his services for more than a year, he said.

Surrey already has supportive housing in Whalley, Central Surrey and Newton, but there’s nothing similar in the south end of the city. While services have been lacking, the need has not, Tatlay said.

How exactly the site will ru will be decided after city approval, but initial plans are to structure it after Whalley’s Safe Sleep modular housing site.

RELATED: Surrey working to provide a ‘safe sleep’ for homeless people

With four acres of land available for use, Tatlay said the project will likely use just a portion of the space at first, with an option to expand it later.

“Our operation here is no different than the daytime warming centre in that it will be heavily, heavily contingent on partnerships that we’ve built up over time,” he added.

To ensure wrap-around supports for the residents of the housing site, establishing relationships with BC Housing, Fraser Health and the cities of White Rock and Surrey will be the goal, Tatlay said. Mental health services, physical health care, food assistance, substance use supports and more will all be available on-site to the future residents.

“One thing we don’t talk about are washrooms, so providing people with washrooms, showers, laundry facilities… and the site is actually reflective of what the needs of the peer community are,” Tatlay said.

He added that while different organizations and municipalities will be involved in the project, his ultimate goal is for the housing to have influence from people with lived experience.

“It should actually be well-informed by the peers and that’s one of the few things I will push (for), to make sure those voices are represented.”

ALSO READ: Surrey’s homeless population has risen by 65% since 2020

Having a clean-up team on site and in the surrounding area is a practice Tatlay said will be taken from the warming centre to also be in use at the supportive housing location. Being a good neighbour is important, he stressed.

On the PH2H call was White Rock Coun. Ernie Klassen. Klassen shared his support for the daytime centre, which closed on March 8, and also for the housing proposal.

“I can’t really speak on behalf of the city, but on behalf of myself, getting involved in this and participating and doing whatever I can to move this forward” is the plan, Klassen said.

Pending approval, the housing project at the 168 Street location is planned to be around for at least 15 years, Tatlay said, adding that the developers have no intention of building other projects on that site at this time.

“We want to make sure the guests and the public feel safe and connected,” Tatlay said, cautioning once again that the project’s parameters are still being mulled over as it is in the early stage.

“This is by no means a done deal. I would say it’s nowhere close to that.”

Sobia Moman

About the Author: Sobia Moman

Sobia Moman is a news and features reporter with the Peace Arch News.
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