British Columbia

Surrey outreach workers say there's a critical need for more shelter spaces

Outreach workers in Surrey say there is a dire need to add to the 165 extreme weather shelter spaces that are opening in the city.

The shelter at Surrey Urban Mission is turning people away every night because it's full

The Surrey Urban Mission is asking churches and other faith-based organizations to open their doors to the city's homeless. (Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press)

Outreach workers in Surrey say there is a dire need to add to the 165 extreme weather shelter spaces that are opening in the city.

Surrey Urban Mission executive director Mike Musgrove, who runs a shelter that has space for 50 people, says they have to turn people away every night because they're full.

"Last night, we turned 10 people away at our door," he said. "We need people who are willing to open up their buildings and host emergency shelters."

Musgrove is calling on faith-based groups to open their doors to people who are currently sleeping outside.

"It would be wonderful if people would step up," he said. "We need to be able to bring people out of the cold."

Numbers of homeless far greater than the count

A count conducted in 2017 found 602 homeless people in the city, but outreach workers say the actual number is much higher.

"Those were only people who were visible on the day of the count," said Surrey and White Rock extreme weather co-ordinator Jonquil Hallgate. "You can multiply that number by three or four."

Earlier this year, 173 people who were living in tents along 135A Street were moved into shelters or temporary modular housing in the city.

"It's wonderful that they were able to open those spaces," she said."The other part of the conversation, though, is every day there are people entering into homelessness or are at risk of homelessness."

The province is providing 1,400 temporary shelter spaces and over 750 extreme weather response shelter spaces this winter across B.C.

"Temporary and extreme weather shelters are crucial to ensuring the health and safety of people living on the street and getting them out of the cold and wet weather," said Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Selina Robinson.

"These shelters not only have the potential to save lives — they also assist people in accessing the support and services they need to achieve housing stability."

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