A City of Surrey photo of North Surrey rec centre, located at 10275 City Pkwy. (Photo: surrey.ca)

Homelessness

North Surrey rec centre opens as extreme weather shelter

City OKs more civic space to be used, after opening clubhouse for homeless to sleep in at Tom Binnie Park

The co-ordinator of Surrey’s extreme weather shelter program is “delighted” that the city has OK’d the use of more civic space to keep the homeless off the street, and in from the cold at night.

Twenty new extreme weather spaces for the homeless opened at North Surrey Recreation Centre Tuesday night. It’s the first time the City of Surrey has allowed a recreation facility to be used as a shelter.

The news comes after the city allowed civic space to be used as a shelter for the first time last week, allowing 10 beds in a clubhouse at Tom Binnie Park.

Councillor Brenda Locke said it’s “an important step for the city to open a public facility in a weather emergency response like the one we are currently experiencing.”

Locke said the shelter is being set up “upstairs” at the rec centre, and is accessible by wheelchair.

She said the rec centre is “a much more appropriate facility in terms of size, location, amenities and access,” when compared to the Tom Binnie clubhouse.

“We ran into some power problems at the Tom Binnie location,” Locke added.

North Surrey rec centre is located at 10275 City Pkwy. This location will be open from 9 p.m. to 8 a.m., whenever extreme weather sites are operational.

It’s being run by Lookout Housing and Health Society, which runs the Gateway shelter on 135A Street.

Read more: Surrey using civic space to house homeless for first time as cold snap continues

See also: VIDEO: Surrey shelter ‘turning people away every night’ amid cold snap (Feb. 5, 2019)

See also: Shortfall of extreme weather beds for homeless in North Surrey

Surrey’s extreme weather response co-ordinator Jonquil Hallgate told the Now-Leader she’s “hopeful that it will suffice to meet the need.”

“We’re still looking for a site in Newton because,” said Hallgate. “We have no spaces there but we know there’s lots of folks who are not indoors in that community. It would be nice to be able to have a place there, and be ready to go for next year.”

Asked if the Tom Binnie spaces are remaining open, Hallgate said “it’s scheduled to open night, and at this point we’re proceeding on it being open.”

Surrey and White Rock’s more than 100 extreme weather spaces have been called to stay open until Monday morning, at which point they could be ordered to stay open.

“It looks like it’s going to be cold into next week,” said Hallgate, “but the weather changes.”

Lone Surrey First Councillor Linda Annis said it’s “absolutely fabulous” news that the city opened the North Surrey rec centre to the area’s homeless Tuesday night.

“We have a lot of homeless people in Surrey,” said Annis, “and we really need to do our part, particularly in weather we’re experiencing right now, that they have a place to go that’s dry, safe and warm. I’m very impressed the city has stepped forward and opened their doors to be able to accommodate.”

“I can’t imagine being in their shoes,” Annis added. “It’s just horrific that they would have to put up with those kind of conditions.”

Asked why civic spaces never opened in previous years, Annis said “I really can’t speak for the past, I wasn’t part of council then but I do feel it’s a really positive step forward in helping the vulnerable.”

Will the city be opening any spaces in Newton, given Hallgate’s concerns about the absence of any in that community?

“I can say that the city is monitoring it very, very closely and as the need arises, we are certainly receptive to looking at other options to be able to get vulnerable people off the street,” Annis replied.

Meantime, Surrey Urban Mission at the corner of 108th Avenue and King George Boulevard will continue to operate as a “warming space” during the day, for those who have to leave shelter spaces in the morning.

With 20 new spaces at the North Surrey rec centre, Surrey/White Rock’s extreme weather program now has 136 beds available, if needed: 10 at Tom Binnie Park’s clubhouse, 25 in White Rock run by Options Community Services (15262 Pacific Ave.), 25 in Cloverdale also run by Options (5337 180th St.), 15 at Phoenix Society (13686 94A Ave.), 15 spaces for women at Nightshift Street Ministries (10635 King George Blvd.), 16 at Fraser Region Aboriginal Friendship Centre (13639 108th Ave.), and 10 youth beds operated by Pacific Community Resources (10453 Whalley Blvd.).

Another 15 EWR spaces are at Ladner United Church, in Delta (4960 48th Ave.).

The “Extreme Weather Response” program is a provincially funded initiative that provides temporary, emergency shelter spaces in period of extreme weather conditions, all of which are in addition to permanent shelters spaces.

Anyone looking for a shelter can dial 211 and “someone will help you find a place to get in out of the cold,” Locke said.

Locke also encouraged residents to consider donating items to Surrey Urban Mission, at 10776 King George Blvd.

“They need everything. They give it all away,” she said. “Really, it’s boots and coats and blankets and sleeping bags that are needed. And socks, of course.”

See also: Count finds 49 per cent more homeless people in Surrey

See more: More than 100 seniors living on Surrey streets: homeless count

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