British Columbia

Construction of supportive housing project in Surrey delayed by nesting birds

Councillor Brenda Locke says she hoped the 38-bed facility would be ready in time to take in some of the residents of the soon-to-be-demolished Nickerson Place.

New facility will house some residents from soon-to-be-demolished Nickerson Place

Forty-six modular housing units in Surrey's Whalley neighbourhood are being demolished this week. A new 38-bed facility that will be able to take some of the displaced residents has been delayed. (Jesse Johnston/CBC)

Demolition is scheduled to begin this week on 46 temporary modular homes, known as Nickerson Place, in Surrey's Whalley neighbourhood.

Some residents have found permanent housing but many are moving into temporary spaces, such as shelters, as they wait for three new modular housing projects to be built in the city.

Surrey Coun. Brenda Locke says she hoped a 38-bed facility on King George Boulevard near 132 Street would be ready in time to take in some of the residents, but the project was delayed.

"The challenge we had, which is a little bit odd unfortunately, was we had birds nesting at one of the locations," she said.

"It stalled us by about a month and a half but that's going full-steam ahead now and we expect it will be ready by the end of October."

New supportive housing

Three clusters of temporary modular housing opened in Surrey in the summer of 2018, providing homes for 160 people.

The land leases on all three properties have now expired, but extensions have been granted for two of the sites.

Locke says the owner of the Nickerson Place site also granted an extension but now wants the property back to develop condos.

"We have known for sometime that August was the date we needed to be out by," she said. "We've been slowly moving people out of Nickerson Place for months now."

More than 200 new supportive homes are currently in development or under construction in the city, according to B.C. Housing.

Surrey Urban Mission executive director Mike Musgrove says those spaces are badly needed.

"I think B.C. Housing is doing a good job of trying to manoeuvre in this situation so that people are being cared for who were at Nickerson Place," he said. "It's the people who weren't in Nickerson — people who are still living outside — it would be great to have a space with varying levels of care for those folks."

Doug Nickerson saved 148 overdose victims by administering naloxone. (Jesse Johnston/CBC)

Nickerson Place

Nickerson Place was named after "Little" Doug Nickerson, one of the first people in Surrey trained to use Naloxone, which he used to reverse 148 overdoses.

Nickerson died in October 2017 after battling pancreatic cancer.

Locke and Musgrove both hope there will be some other kind of tribute to make sure his name is remembered after the building that bears his name is demolished.

"I know that many people in the Whalley area still think fondly of Doug," Locke said. "I'm sure we'll find some way to still acknowledge the work that he did, because he was quite incredible. A remarkable man."

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