A past extreme weather response shelter set up for women inside Surrey’s Nightshift Street Ministries. (Photo: Chris Paul/nightshiftministries.org)

Surrey councillor says more extreme weather shelter beds to open in the city

Brenda Locke says the beds should be open through the weekend

Despite a challenge in getting extreme weather shelter beds up and running in north Surrey, a city councillor says more will be opening up Friday evening (Dec. 7).

Brenda Locke said more beds will be opening up in north Surrey tonight.

With the opening of more shelter beds this weekend, Locke said the city is “better prepared.”

“We were challenged in getting beds up and running, especially in north Surrey,” Locke told the Now-Leader Friday afternoon.

Surrey Urban Mission Society (SUMS) executive director Michael Musgrove said 16 additional beds will be opening up at Fraser Region Aboriginal Friendship Centre through SUMS. He said he found out around 11 a.m. Friday about the additional beds.

A tweet from Homelessness Services Association of BC says there will be shelters in north Surrey, Cloverdale and South Surrey White Rock.

Extreme weather beds are located at: Pacific Community Resources Society (10 youth beds, 8 p.m. to 7 a.m.); Fraser Region Aboriginal Friendship Centre (16 beds, 9 p.m. to 7 a.m.); Phoenix Drug and Alcohol Recovery Centre (9 beds for men only, 8 p.m. to 7 a.m.); Peninsula United Church (25 beds, 9 p.m. 7 a.m.); Pacific Community Church (25 beds, 11 p.m. to 7 a.m.); and NightShift Street Ministries (15 beds for women only, 8 p.m. to 7 a.m.).

The Extreme Weather Response program, according to the Homelessness Services Association of BC, is a provincially funded initiative that “supports community-based serves to provide additional temporary emergency shelter spaces during periods of extreme winter weather which threaten the health and safety of individuals experiencing homelessness.”

The program officially runs Nov. 1 to March 31, but there can sometimes be calls to open in October.

For a continuously updated list of shelters, visit shelters.bc211.ca/bc211shelters.

Musgrove said while more beds are needed, the addition 16 are appreciated “immensely.”

“It’ll help, that’s for sure,” Musgrove said.

Locke said the beds should be open until Monday “for sure,” but the weather is expected to warm up by the end of the weekend.

“We’ve upped those numbers quite a bit in north Surrey in the last 24 hours, so I’m very happy about that,” she said. “It’s been very cold and we really want to make sure those people on the street, at least, can get in if they choose to. They don’t all choose to, by the way. That’s the challenge, but if they choose to come in, there is going to be places for them.”

Environment Canada issued a special weather statement Thursday (Dec. 6), warning of a chance of flurries and the possibility of freezing rain in the Lower Mainland late Friday.

RELATED: Flurries and slight risk of freezing rain for Lower Mainland: Environment Canada

Musgrove said SUMS is operating as a warming centre during the day, but he said the society is full every night.

He said the cold spell “looks like it’s ending soon or at least diminishing.”

“As soon as it (the weather) is above zero, we look at that as ending, but it’s just diminishing, I guess.”

But then the rain starts, Musgrove said.

“I’d rather be outside in minus-4 and cold than one degree and raining.”

At the end of November, Surrey’s extreme weather response co-ordinator told the Now-Leader that there was a shortfall of extreme weather beds in north Surrey.

Jonquil Hallgate said at the time she was waiting for the Fraser Region Aboriginal Friendship Centre Association to open with 18 spaces. By the end of November, she said there were about 20 spaces split between Pacific Community Resource Centre and NightShift Street Ministries.

READ ALSO: Shortfall of extreme weather beds for homeless in north Surrey

Hallgate said the problem was many former locations for extreme weather shelters have become temporary or permanent spaces, after the closure of 135A Street to tents, meaning those venues are not available for the extreme weather program anymore.

– With files from Amy Reid



lauren.collins@surreynowleader.com

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