News Local

New Surrey homeless shelter opens

Lora Grindlay

The building that will house a winter shelter for the homeless in Guildford. The new Surrey shelter is set to open on Feb. 14. (Google Street View photo)

The building that will house a winter shelter for the homeless in Guildford. The new Surrey shelter is set to open on Feb. 14. (Google Street View photo)

A new 40-bed shelter in Guildford opened Tuesday.

Surrey council was divided over the project because of its proximity to an elementary school and to a park. But it passed and renovations have been completed on the building, at 14717 104th Ave., and the new facility is a temporary shelter that is contracted until March 31, 2018.

Surrey worked with the province to buy and operate the shelter. The provincial government will provide $80,000 a month for operating costs of the Guildford shelter, in addition to a $25,000, one-time, start-up contribution toward renovation costs.

The two-storey shelter, which will be run by the Lookout Emergency Aid Society, has a commercial kitchen, dining room, separate areas for men and women, and six rooms designed specifically for couples.

In late January, Medical Health Officer Dr. Shovita Padhi told Surrey’s public safety committee that the majority of people starting Opioid Agonist Treatment (OAT), such as methadone or suboxone, are couples. Padhi said the majority of those who start this treatment are couples “because they have that embedded support with each other."

At the same meeting, B.C. Housing’s vice-president of operations, Craig Crawford, said that at last count there were “about nine couples in the camp” on 135A Street and added “we will do our best to accommodate them.”

The majority of council voted in favour of the shelter, under the condition it be a pilot project and reviewed after its first year.

“While it is perhaps in proximity to a park, because we have so many parks in the city, I’m not sure we could find a place that wasn’t close to a park,” said Mayor Linda Hepner. “If it has anywhere near the success that we saw last year with the Boulevard (winter) shelter then we have done a good thing. We also have permanent shelters going up and we’ve approved those, but until it gets built we need a winter shelter.”

Coun. Judy Villeneuve said the Boulevard Shelter in Whalley, which began as a winter shelter, is now running year round because it’s been “extremely successful,” adding it has housed 40 people in the last few months.

The provincial government says the new site “mirrors” the Boulevard shelter that opened in the old Dell Beer & Wine store in December 2015. Since February 2016, the Boulevard shelter has transitioned more than 135 people into long-term housing.

With the new shelter, Surrey now has 230 shelter spaces that are open nightly.