British Columbia

Surrey's homeless felt the wrath of the windstorm

A homeless camp in a wooded area of Surrey was wiped out by the windstorm that ripped through Metro Vancouver over the weekend.

Powerful winds knocked down trees and blew away tents in a wooded area between Whalley and Bridgeview

A shelter that had been dug out of the hillside and reinforced with wood was flattened when these trees came down on top of it. (Jesse Johnston/CBC News)

The windstorm that swept through Metro Vancouver over the weekend knocking down trees and cutting off power didn't just affect those living indoors.

It also hit those who live in makeshift shelters in the woods, including at least one resident of  a homeless camp in Surrey that was wiped out by the windstorm.

When the winds it on Saturday huge trees came crashing down on the makeshift shelters in a wooded area near King George Blvd. and Bridgeview Drive.

Don Charles usually camps in the area, but when he heard a storm was coming he grabbed a few personal belongings and headed for a shelter.

"I just tied everything down," he said.

"I tied the tent on the top but left the bottom open so that it would flap like a flag."

What is left of a small tent sits in a pile of rubble near King George Blvd. and Bridgeview Drive in Surrey. (Jesse Johnston/CBC News)

When Charles returned to the campsite the next day his tent was still flapping in the wind, but everything else was gone.

"My stuff was thrown all over the place," he said.

"I have buckets and stuff like that, but I found everything within about half an hour."

Prayers and shelters

The storm also knocked out power to the places indoors where those without homes take shelter, including the Front Room shelter and Nightshift Ministries in Whalley.

"Thank God for flashlights because we were able to get back into our warehouse and make sure that we had our sandwiches," said Nightshift president Mary Ann Connor.

Unlike many makeshift homes in the area, this stuffed bear survived the storm. (Jesse Johnston/CBC News)

Connor often receives prayer requests from homeless people, usually asking for help with addiction or mental health issues, but safety was the most popular topic after the storm.

"There were three requests that came in specifically praying for protection from trees from falling on people," Connor said.

"One in particular that prayed for a person that had a tree fall on him. He broke his leg, his ribs and he had a concussion."

Surrey has extreme weather shelters between November and March when it gets dangerously cold.

Jonquil Hallgate with Surrey Urban Mission says they should also open during extreme storms.

"I would hope that in conversation with the City of Surrey and B.C. Housing, we would be able to come up with a means by which we can address that weather outside of that window from November to March," Hallgate said.

Hallgate hopes to meet with the city and B.C. Housing soon to discuss possible solutions.


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