Homeless population in Surrey, B.C., changing with city
Social workers say they are seeing an increase of elderly South Asian men struggling with addiction
People who work in homeless shelters in Surrey, B.C., say the demographics of those accessing their services are changing.
Jonquil Hallgate with Surrey Urban Mission, which offers programs and services to low-income people, says there seems to be more new immigrants who are homeless in Whalley and in other parts of the city.
"When we're open, for example for extreme weather, we see way more people from the South Asian community," said Hallgate.
Many homeless are elderly, and many are struggling with addiction.
Calls for more services
Addiction is a problem that hits close to home for New Democrat MP Jasbir Sandhu, whose brother had a drug problem.
"He was addicted to drugs over the last 20 odd years, and he passed away about five years ago. So I've seen the cycle where a family struggles to help their loved ones to get outside this cycle," said Sandhu.
The Surrey North politician wants to see more treatment centres and more care beds in the area.
Others, meanwhile, say new immigrants need better access to services.
"As you see an influx of immigrants in the City of Surrey, which brings it a really unique feel, you also see that translate to people who need help," said Shayne Williams, executive director of KEYS Housing & Health Solutions.
Preliminary homeless count due soon
Last week, some 200 volunteers took part in a homeless count in Surrey.
The preliminary numbers will be made available next month, and the official report will be released this summer.
Many expect those numbers will reflect what they have already been seeing and hearing anecdotal: that newcomers to Canada can be at risk of homelessness.
With files from the CBC's Jesse Johnston