It’s taken three days, but the hundreds of homeless who spent years sleeping in tents on Surrey’s so-called “Whalley Strip” are now all either in new modular housing or shelters.
With three new modular housing facilities now online, the City of Surrey and BC Housing had given the area’s homeless residents until the end of Thursday to vacate the infamous stretch of 135A Street.
That process has now been completed, and the massive initiative, involving dozens of social agencies, could serve as a model for other cities.
WATCH: Moving day for Surrey’s ‘Whalley Strip’ tent city
Surrey director of public safety Terry Waterhouse said despite the progress, the process is still not over.
“Phase two includes building more permanent modular structures within the city,” he said.
“We have 250 units coming on board.”
Mayor Linda Hepner calls it “unprecedented” that the homeless are now in either in shelters or modular housing.
“Such an enormous, collaborative partnership has existed to attack a problem in a way that both respectful and compassionate and frankly had a lot of detractors early on.”
Surrey Urban Mission director Mike Musgrove is one of the people who has helped the homeless make the transition over the last couple of days.
“I firmly believe it’s the Lord’s work, and that’s where I’m at with it,” he said.
“I think these things are miraculous, just even the fact we have been involved in it. It’s an honour to be part of it, it’s been challenging, it’s been taxing, but it’s been beautiful.”
Just three days ago, there were 80 tents and 170 people on the Whalley Strip. By Friday morning, it was virtually empty.
Most of the campers have been moved into the 160 available units in one of three modular housing projects operated by the Lookout Housing Society.
They are located at 10662 King George Boulevard, 13550 105 Avenue and 13425 107A Avenue.
WATCH: New housing for homeless living around Whalley Strip
Conditions on the Whalley Strip have put significant pressure on the city to take action.
At least 16 area-businesses say they’ve been forced to close or move away because of growing street disorder, drug dealing and prostitution.
According to the Lookout Society, Surrey’s homeless population grew by one third between 2014 and 2017, climbing from 403 to 602.