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Surrey Wants Emergency Shelter Beds to Open Sooner

November 29, 2011

Surrey – City Council wants the criteria changed for declaring an ‘Extreme Weather Alert’ in the city, which allows for the opening of emergency shelter beds. Council is recommending the Surrey/White Rock Extreme Weather Response (EWR) Plan be changed from the current minus two degrees Celsius, to zero degrees Celsius.

“BC Housing funds community-based temporary emergency shelter spaces during periods of extreme winter weather when the health and safety of homeless individuals is threatened. After consulting with the organizations that provide extreme weather services, we believe that when the temperature drops to zero those beds can and should be opened,” says Mayor Dianne Watts. “The change will bring our city in line with many of the other communities in Metro Vancouver.”

The EWR Plan in Surrey/White Rock defines ‘extreme weather’ as:

  1. Temperatures at or below -2 degrees Celsius;
  2. Significant snow accumulation or sleet/freezing rain conditions;
  3. Significant windstorms that may present danger to persons living in wooded areas and/or makeshift shelters (cardboard boxes or lean-tos); and/or
  4. Periods of extended rain over 3 days creating conditions which make it difficult for people to keep dry.

The plan identifies six shelter locations that can provide up to 135 extreme weather beds, which has been sufficient to meet the demand in previous years.

“We’re hopeful the temperature criteria can be changed for this season, as we know weather experts are predicting a cold winter. And, we will continue to work with BC Housing through our Homelessness and Housing Task Force to develop permanent housing with supports for our homeless population,” says Councillor Judy Villeneuve, President of the Surrey Homelessness and Housing Society.

The City of Surrey was the first municipality in B.C. to establish a fund dedicated to homelessness and housing, and has provided close to $10 million to the fund. Since inception in 2007, almost $1.65 million has been awarded to local organizations.

Council signed a resolution requesting the temperature change at last night’s Council meeting, which will be forwarded to the Surrey/White Rock EWR Committee, BC Housing, the Greater Vancouver Shelter Strategy, and the City of White Rock.

The Surrey/White Rock EWR Committee is comprised of representatives from the organizations that provide shelter space during extreme weather. This includes Cloverdale Church, Surrey Urban Mission, NightShift Street Ministries, Hyland House, First United White Rock/South Surrey, and South Fraser Community Services Society.

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Media Contact:

Tara Foslien
Senior Communications Specialist
Office of the Mayor