Petition calls for water fountain for Surrey homeless petition

A Surrey homeless advocate is calling on the city to reinstall a temporary water fountain for residents of the so-called “Whalley Strip” to help with the summer heat.

The city had installed the fire hydrant mounted unit during the blistering summer of 2015, but hasn’t used it since citing sanitary concerns.

Now, Erin Schulte – who spearheaded the city’s pop up soup kitchen – has launched a petition pleading with the city to bring the fountain back.

READ MORE: City takes steps to address ‘Surrey Strip’ public health and safety concerns

“Someone said to me the other day that we fundraise to go to third world countries to bring fresh water to villages. And all we simply have to do is install a fountain that’s probably a 10 to 15-minute process. You know, it’s not anything fancy,” she said.

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Jas Rehal, Surrey Manager of Public Safety Operations said the fountain isn’t needed because outreach and city workers distribute water to the campers, and that there is a tap in a nearby drop-in centre.

LISTEN: Jody Vance and Charmaine de Silva talk water fountains in Surrey

He added that there are no plans to reinstall it, though wouldn’t rule it out if circumstances changed.

“Right now we are comfortable that water is being offered, it’s available, it’s getting out to those that are camping in the street there. So if that was the case, we didn’t have enough water, we couldn’t meet that demand, we’d obviously mobilize quickly.”

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But from Schulte’s perspective, the need is there now.

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Homeless campers on 135-A St. are required to take their tents down every day leaving the area with very little shade.

That has some campers so desperate that they’ll climb back into deconstructed tents trying to escape the sun.

“One gentleman was in a coat and shirt and jeans and pants and he was shivering in his tent because he had gotten heat stroke,” she said.

READ MORE: Surrey denies mistreating homeless woman in widely-viewed video

As for the city’s sanitary concerns, Schulte said they were based on one former area resident who was trying to bathe in the fountain.

The Strip’s homeless population has offered to maintain and clean the fountain if the city were to bring it back and provide cleaning supplies, she said.

Those assurances appear not to be enough for the city.

“Everything is open for discussion, and all options, you know, we’ll look at,” Rehal said.

“But just to keep in mind, we installed washrooms there a few months ago with that same premise, that residents would keep it clean. We’ve had problems with that too.”

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As of Monday, the petition has attracted about 600 signatures.

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