British Columbia

Activists occupy Surrey rec centre, demand safe places for homeless to live during COVID-19 crisis

A group of homeless activists and supporters who occupied the North Surrey Recreation Centre Wednesday are demanding safe places to live during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Shelters, SROs are dangerous because they make self-isolating difficult, activists claim

The protest at the North Surrey Recreation Centre lasted several hours. (Mike Zimmer/CBC News)

Around 50 homeless activists and supporters staged a protest at the North Surrey Recreation centre last night, demanding safer places to live during the COVID-19 pandemic.

They claim conditions in shelters, SROs, and modular housing are dangerous because people are in smaller spaces where it's harder to self-isolate.

"The government has absolutely abandoned poor people in the COVID crisis," said activist Ivan Drury. 

"They're stuck in shelters sleeping shoulder to shoulder where, if one person gets sick, everyone is guaranteed to be sick."

Drury suggests the City of Surrey and the province arrange housing for homeless people in empty hotel rooms.

B.C. Housing said in a statement that it is working with the city and Fraser Health to accommodate vulnerable people, and is looking into motels and community centres as options. 

It said the North Surrey Recreation Centre is one of the possible locations.

A few hours into the protest, Surrey RCMP said the protesters agreed to leave peacefully and no one was arrested.

An investigation into how they got into the building is ongoing.

If you have a COVID-19-related story we should pursue that affects British Columbians, please email us at impact@cbc.ca.  

With files from Meera Bains

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