When it comes to resources for the homeless in White Rock and South Surrey – such as a place to shower or do laundry – officials say men are getting the short end of the stick.
“Down in South Surrey, there’s nothing for men, boys,” Jaye Murray, manager of Sources White Rock South Surrey Food Bank, said last month. “I have no idea where they can go.”
Murray was commenting following a donation of gifts and food that was collected during Hudson’s Hope, a drive held in December in honour of 20-year-old Hudson Brooks, the young man killed by police outside of the South Surrey RCMP detachment in July 2015.
Murray said that during pickup of the collected items, she and Brooks’ mother, Jennifer, chatted about the specific gap in resources, “wondering if there’s something we can do.”
Currently, she noted, the only facility on the Semiahmoo Peninsula where homeless men and male youth can shower is at White Rock’s extreme-weather shelter – which, as the name suggests, is only open at its First United Church home during extreme-weather events.
It’s a sharp contrast to the year-round access that women have to such services through Sources Women’s Place.
Prior to the opening 2½ years ago of Sources current food-bank location, at 2343 156 St., male clients could access showers and laundry at the facility’s 24 Avenue site, Murray said.
Now, when they ask where to access such services locally, “I can’t send them anywhere,” Murray said, noting there was no room at the 156 Street location for those services.
“I’ve had several of the men come in and ask for showers and clean clothes, and we have nothing. It’s bad enough that we can’t help them, but we can’t even refer them to anyone.”
Lori Dennis, deputy director of Options Community Services, agreed more services are needed for the homeless, approximately 70 per cent of whom are men.
“There’s always a need,” Dennis said, noting the issue of homelessness “looks different for women and young people,” who tend to be less visible.
Dennis said outreach workers are instrumental in identifying those in need; reaching out to the individuals wherever they are, and trying to entice them to one of the city’s emergency shelters.
The closest one to the Semiahmoo Peninsula, however, is in Cloverdale, where ground was also recently broken on the Bill Reid Memorial Shelter.
That $4-million facility will create 28 beds – 16 shelter beds and 12 transition beds – adjacent to an existing 10-bed shelter near Highway 10 and 176 Street.
Murray said making such services available on the Peninsula for men has been raised in the past at Peninsula Homeless to Housing Task Force meetings.
“It was felt that it had to be a grassroots thing,” she said, noting Sources’ Women’s Place, in the 15300-block of 20 Avenue, started in a church.
“We raised it because we see the lack of resources.”
Brooks said she plans to attend Friday’s PH2H meeting to learn more about the issue.
“I don’t think we can fix the problem, (but) how can we help?” Brooks said Wednesday.
While she said it’s not something she can direct her entire focus to at the moment – that is squarely on the Justice for Hudson campaign, as she awaits word of a Crown counsel decision regarding her son’s death – Brooks said she hopes to work with Murray on a future charity event for the cause.
“I am shocked at how much our homeless community has grown just in the last two years,” she said. “Where are they staying in this cold weather?
“This is an issue that has to be addressed. We can’t just keep brushing it under the table.”