Tuesday is the start of what’s expected to be a three-day moving process for people who have been living in tents on Surrey’s Whalley strip.
Global News reporter Janet Brown, who is reporting from the strip and speaking to those who are supposed to leave, says many are refusing to go, which could result in a showdown with RCMP.
About 170 people who have called 135a Street home, living in about 80 tents, will be offered temporary housing either in the form of provincially-funded modular homes — that are ready for move-in — or shelter beds at a local shelter, based on assessed need.
It’s all part of the province and City of Surrey’s response to the community’s need for housing assistance.
B.C. Housing and other community workers are helping people gather their belongings and make the transition but there is resistance from some, especially those with pets because the shelters/modular homes won’t allow animals.
Surrey’s Director of Public Safety Strategy, Terry Waterhouse, said the city will deal with things as they happen.
WATCH: Moving day for Surrey’s ‘Whalley Strip’ tent city
“That’s the part of responding to the situation as it unfolds and we’ll address that, those issues, on an hourly and on a daily basis,” Waterhouse said when asked what happens if some refuse to move.
Surrey Mayor Linda Hepner has previously said “if they won’t leave then we’ll do something that ensures they do.”
There are three locations where the supportive housing that’s being offered is located, including at 10662 King George Boulevard, 13550 105 Avenue and 13425 107a Avenue.
“This situation has been at a critical level for too long, and at last, housing is available for people who have had to endure the hardships and risks to personal health and safety that come with living without shelter,” Surrey-Whalley MLA Bruce Ralston said in a joint news release.
The new housing units, which will be operated by a not-for-profit called Lookout Housing Society, include secure individual rooms with private bathrooms, officials say, adding residents will have access to meal programs, counselling and medical offices.
The charity, along with Fraser Health, will also offer supports to those dealing with serious mental health, substance use, overall health, poverty and education by connecting them to services and treatment.
“Intensive case management teams work with the most vulnerable people… managing day-to-day activities, such as banking and grocery shopping, is often taken for granted, but they are important steps in successfully engaging in care, regaining independence and contributing to the community,” Fraser Health chief medical health officer Dr. Victoria Lee said in the statement.
The Lookout Society’s executive director said, in a news release, homelessness in Surrey increased by a third between 2014 and 2017 with a jump from 403 individuals to 602.
The province and city say they’re still looking for sites for the 250 units of permanent modular housing that will replace the temporary housing next year.
~ With files from Janet Brown