A safe place to sleep will soon be a reality for more of Surrey’s most vulnerable citizens. With help from funding under the Safe Restart Agreement, the City of Surrey is working with BC Housing and Fraser Health to put in place additional supports for vulnerable people, including those experiencing homelessness during the COVID-19 pandemic.
BC Housing has released a request for proposals to secure an operator for a temporary supportive housing building at 13425 107A Avenue in Surrey. The goal is to have the site operational in the first quarter of 2022.
“The release of the BC Housing request for proposals is an important milestone in implementing the Safe Sleep initiative and the City is proud to have received one of the largest grants under the program, reflecting our growing population and the ongoing need to support our citizens who are experiencing homelessness,” said Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum, on Tuesday. “To date, in partnership with BC Housing and others, over five hundred beds are provided for citizens across modular supportive housing, shelters, and emergency weather response locations.”
“I look forward to seeing this new building up and running, as I know it will make a significant positive impact on the homelessness crisis in Surrey,” said Bruce Ralston, MLA for Surrey-Whalley. “Our government is working to help vulnerable people make lasting changes in their lives, and that begins with a safe and stable roof over their head.”
In July 2021, the City of Surrey, in collaboration with BC Housing and Fraser Health, was awarded $14.2 million in grant funding from the Union of British Columbia Municipalities (UBCM) Strengthening Communities’ Services Program. This funding has been made available to manage the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Safe Sleep is one of six initiatives being advanced with support from the grant and involves renovation and repurposing of an existing site to extend its life and provide much needed safe spaces for people experiencing homelessness. The 60-bed facility was first put in place by BC Housing and the City in 2018 as part of the relocation of people living in tents on 135A Avenue but was due to be demolished before grant funding made it possible to extend the use of the facility for an additional 18 months to two years. Fraser Health is partnering with the City and BC Housing to deliver its Integrated Response Team health services from the Safe Sleep site on 107A Avenue.
On October 18, 2021, Surrey City Council endorsed extending the lease of the site on 107A Avenue and on November 8 endorsed extending the temporary use permit to allow for continued operation of supportive housing on the site for up to three years. This additional supportive housing is being delivered as part of the City’s broader commitment to support our most vulnerable residents’ housing needs. The City continues to enhance available housing supports as demand continues to accelerate. Additional planned and previously announced beds will also be opened in the new year.
The City said it worked collaboratively with BC Housing and Fraser Health to design a consortium of services and programming titled the Pandemic Response Package(PRP) that offers a comprehensive approach to address homelessness, especially in the City Centre area.
The Pandemic Response Package comprises six initiatives aimed at addressing rising unsheltered homelessness in Surrey City Centre. The City, BC Housing, and Fraser Health are working in collaboration to implement the programming under the PRP that include program components falling within the mandates of the parties. The six initiatives under the PRP seek to address a range of health and safety impacts facing both people experiencing homelessness and the wider community as a result of rising homelessness.
- The SAFE SLEEP initiative is a temporary modular supportive housing facility within the City Centre. The supportive housing facility will be implemented by BC Housing and Fraser Health to provide a range of housing and clinical supports to people experiencing heightened vulnerabilities related to homelessness, mental health, and substance use challenges.
- The NOURISH SURREY initiative provides space for meal services and respite for people experiencing unsheltered homelessness in the City Centre area.
- The HEALTHY LIVING initiative involves the installation of temporary washroom, shower and potentially laundry facilities in strategic locations in the City Centre and adjacent neighbourhoods to provide support for personal hygiene for people experiencing unsheltered homelessness.
- The SMART CART initiative involves the deployment of an outreach team, including a bylaws staff and a community services worker, to offer support and connect people experiencing unsheltered homelessness with the appropriate services and resources for immediate relief.
- The CLEAN TEAM initiative augments and supports the City’s ongoing clean up services in the impacted areas to clear debris and waste resulting from homelessness in the area. This program may also include peer-employment opportunities for people with lived and living experience of homelessness.
- The SAFETY AND COMMUNITY SERVICES NETWORK is being developed with leadership from the City, BC Housing, and Fraser Health to leverage existing partnerships, enhance cross-agency coordination and service delivery, and identify new initiatives to help address persistent social issues that continue to impact the well-being of residents in Surrey.
The programs are all supported by the City, BC Housing and Fraser Health and will use funds from the Strengthening Communities’ Services Grant from UBCM. The grant was approved in July 2021 and has one to two years to be expended. The City said it is working to identify opportunities for sustainable funding for these initiatives beyond the grant term.