WHALLEY — A Surrey woman who runs a soup kitchen on 135A Street is horrified that the city hasn’t installed a water fountain for the homeless.
The city has supplied a temporary fountain there in the past – one simply hooked up to a fire hydrant – but over the weekend she noticed its absence.
“It’s so bad down there yesterday that people were begging me to try and get it back,” Erin Schulte told the Now-Leader Monday morning.
She has started a petition that she intends to send to the Surrey Fire Service as well as city hall.
The city installed a temporary water fountain there in the summer of 2015, after advocate Sybil Rowe pushed city hall to do so after reading a story in this newspaper about Surrey Urban Mission requesting water bottle donations.
But so far this year, it’s not there.
Schulte said she’s concerned for the lives of those living along the embattled street as high temperatures persist.
“The threat of heat stroke is a huge concern as there is little to no shade along the street,” she said. “Members of the homeless population have said they would step up and ensure it’s kept clean if supplies were left available to them.”
Surrey’s bylaw enforcement manager Jas Rehal said at this time, the fountain is not installed, but added that it can be installed if needed.
“What we do is we meet regularly with service providers in area and we can mobilize really quickly if we need to,” he said. “We still have one.”
Rehal noted water is available through the service providers in the area.
“Another reason it’s not installed is in the past we had it there, there were a lot of problems…. individuals bathing there, that kind of thing. So it’s a fine line of balancing health issues and need for water,” he added.
“But if they’re not getting it fast enough and they need it, we can mobilize very quickly.”
Before it was installed in 2015, Rowe visited 135A Street to hand out free water bottles.
“They were desperate,” she said of the folks that she met. “If they get dehydrated, we’re talking about a very, very serious life-or-death situation.”
Rowe did some research and learned in Vancouver, they had portable water fountains that are hooked up to fire hydrants. Surrey didn’t at that time, she added.
After several weeks of talking to many different people in many different departments at the city, Surrey went ahead and installed fountains in the summer of 2015 (one along the 135A Street “Strip,” another elsewhere in Whalley and two in Newton).