Scores of people packed Surrey city hall on Monday to express their strongly held position to a six-storey homeless shelter in Guildford.
Despite the strenuous opposition, Surrey council voted to rezone a property at 14706 104 Ave.
Speaker after speaker lined up to get their five minutes before Surrey council.
Supporters appeared first.
“Those people living in tents, where are they going to go?” one woman asked. “I think having them under one roof is a great idea.’
Speaking for the Lookout Society, the group who will operate the facility, Bailey Mumford said the shelter is very needed.
There already is a smaller shelter on site that allows for about 40 people, but Mumford
“We are able to house people on a small basis out there, but we need more,” Mumford said. “While we operate this facility, we will have 24/7 staff on site.”
He said the project is about providing homes.
“It’s going to be a home where they can live,” Mumford said. “That’s what’s being proposed here.
One woman said she now pays higher insurance because of the problems associated with th4e existing shelter in the area.
“I no longer live at a good address,” she said. “That’s all because of the (existing) shelter being there.”
She is concerned that this six-storey shelter isn’t the end of what the community will see.
“The city owns the property next door,” she said. “Will this be expanded?”
Marcus Paterson, with B.C. Housing, said he’s pleased to see this project being proposed.
“We believe this is part of the solution,” Paterson said.
BC Housing, which provides funding for the project, says in a report that the housing is absolutely necessary in this area.
“This housing would help to move people off the streets and out of shelters and precarious housing and towards stable and safe housing, and improved quality of life,” the provincial housing authority says. “People who experience homelessness are as varied as any other neighbour.”
Another woman, who described herself as “33-years-young” said she has hope thanks to facilities like this.
“I owe many aspects of my life to Lookout (Society),” she said. “After just six months not having a home, my husband and i are now stabilizing and have shelter.”
Another woman, a senior, has been in desperate need of facilities like this.
“Having been homeless and out of place, the problem is not about a shelter in Guildford,” she said. “Nobody should be shunned. Nobody deserves to go without.”
One man said the project has no business in this location.
“When you’re a drug addict, you’re a drug addict,” he said. “It’s not our job to help these people.”
Dave Hayer said he toured the neighbourhood asking people what they thought.
He went to Save-On and got a chilling reaction.
“Quite honestly, it’s a nightmare,” Hayer remembers them saying. Then he went to the local RCMP district office, right next door. They told him crime has dropped in the area since the existing shelter was built.
“There’s a real disconnect between the community and the RCMP (on this issue),” Hayer said.
Another woman said Surrey has to stop ghettoizing communities like this one.
“We are not uplifting this area, we are creating more reasons for shelters like this,” she said. “We have hundreds of acres near Surrey Memorial Hospital.”
She said there are lots of better areas for places like this.
At the end of the three-hour public discussion on the issue, Surrey council voted unanimously in favour of the homeless shelter.
Coun. Brenda Locke urged the operators of the facility to increase staffing levels at the facility in order to bring greater ease to the community.