A Surrey city councillor has promised action on the growing tent city along the so-called “Whalley Strip,” which he said has given the city a “black eye.”
Changes are coming to the notorious stretch of 135A Street “within the next six months,” said Coun. Tom Gill.
The City of Surrey has initiated a series of cleanups and crackdowns on the street in recent years, but the tent city has only grown.
More than 130 people now live in the tents that line the street for several blocks. Last December, the city added a 24/7 outreach team made up of police and city workers to increase safety — both for area businesses and the homeless.
“There’s no question it’s a top priority for us,” said Gill, adding that the costs of cleaning and policing the strip are “significant.”
Gill said funding for 150 units of modular housing has been promised by the provincial government, and once they’re in place the first priority will be to match them with the homeless living on 135A Street.
WATCH: City of Surrey takes on ‘the strip’ (December 2016)
But Gill wouldn’t rule out city action if the street’s population refuses to move.
“I made comments earlier saying there would be some tough love. I certainly stand by those comments,” he said.
“The opportunity to create the supply that is required is first and foremost. Once that opportunity is created, I think the opportunities for one to make a choice would be limited.”
Earlier this month, a Whalley business owner called on the city to buy a block of land and use it for a homeless shelter in order to improve the situation on the street.
Surrey Mayor Linda Hepner has also called on the province to speed up construction of modular housing in the city.
The 150 units promised by the province are due to come online in February.
In September, the NDP government pledged to build 2,000 of the temporary units in communities across the province.
Metro Vancouver’s latest homeless count found more than 3,600 people living on the region’s streets.