British Columbia

'Surrey Strip' tent city cleared of residents

Whalley's 'Surrey Strip' tent city along 135A Street has been cleared out. BC Housing says 173 people have been moved into shelter space or permanent modular housing provided by the province.

BC Housing says it has found shelter for all 173 residents of the encampment

The site of the 'Surrey Strip' tent city in Whalley has been cleared of its residents and cleaned. (Cory Correia)

The tent city known as the 'Surrey Strip', which ran along Surrey's 135A Street, is now gone. 

BC Housing says it has found homes for the 173 people who have been living in the encampment on and off for the past two years.

Many of them have moved into 160 temporary modular homes provided by the province, while others have found space in local shelters.

On Tuesday, outreach workers began helping tent city residents relocate their belongings. By Friday morning, all the tents had been removed. 

"I am extremely pleased to report that after three days of hard work by over 60 staff represented from over 12 organizations, together we moved people to safe and supportive housing," said BC Housing regional director Brenda Prosken.

Tents and their residents used to crowd the side of 135A Street in Surrey. (CBC News)

All of the modular units are now full, Prosken says, but there is still some room in local shelters.

She says all the residents were cleared without any incidents, injuries, or arrests — a feat the City of Surrey says is thanks to a culture of respect and dignity for people who had nowhere else to go. 

"By treating individuals with respect, and building a mechanism that allows them to live in dignity, we got exactly what we got this week, which is cooperation, coordination and success," said Terry Waterhouse, the city's director of public safety.

Each modular unit has a mini fridge, microwave and private bathroom. (Haley Lewis/CBC)

As for concerns from some residents that people will still return to tent on this street, the city is confident their approach will ensure that doesn't happen.

"Our Surrey outreach team continues to be active in working in the area, they will continue the approach that we've used to ensure that we work with individuals and work with agencies," Waterhouse said.

"We are confident that continuing to work together as we have to date will allow us to have continued success."

The city says it's already working on phase two of this multi-phase project, which will involve building 250 permanent modular structures within the city, along with more than 50 additional shelter beds. 

Those permanent units are expected in 2019, but there's no word yet on where they will be located.