Roy Mercer – who lives with Darlene Fox in a camper – says a shelter would do more harm than good.

Roy Mercer – who lives with Darlene Fox in a camper – says a shelter would do more harm than good.

Call for a homeless shelter in South Surrey

But Roy Mercer – who has been living on and off the streets for more than a decade – says a homeless shelter would do more harm than good.

Members of the Peninsula Homeless to Housing (PH2H) task force say there is a need for a permanent homeless shelter in the South Surrey/White Rock area.

“These are the choices the community has to make. It’s not a question (of) if we choose to have homeless people or not have homeless people. Homeless people exist in our community, how are we going to house them?” Neil Fernyhough, PH2H chair, told Peace Arch News Monday, following the group’s monthly meeting.

“I think that’s the question that needs to be posed to the community. How do you want to house the people in our community that have no place to live?”

Historically, the group – which comprises members from various faith and support organizations – promotes the First United Church’s extreme-weather shelter, which opens on fall and winter nights when there’s heavy rain or temperatures below 0 C. It has 15 sleeping mats.

But members say the time is right for a permanent facility.

PH2H co-ordinator Peter Greenwell noted that the White Rock extreme-weather shelter is used by a higher percentage of women than any other shelter in Metro Vancouver – a fact task-force member Pat Petrala attributes to White Rock being “a relatively safer community for them.”

As well, PH2H members and Roy Mercer – who until recent years had been living on the streets in South Surrey for more than a decade – agree there’s an increasing number of homeless people living in the area.

Chelsea Robson, of Sources Community Resource Centre’s food bank, said 650 people receive support there every week, and “a lot” of them are living in vehicles and hotels.

However, not everybody agrees a permanent shelter is a solution.

Mercer suggests it would do more harm than good.

“Should there be a permanent shelter? No. And that’s straight from the heart, no. You know how to stop homelessness? Stop giving. You’ve got to (stop), where does it end? It’s got to stop and that’s coming from a homeless person,” Mercer told PAN.

Mercer is now living in a borrowed camper parked on private property with his partner, Darlene Fox. He acknowledged the reason he has a roof over his head is the result of the goodwill of a friend, but noted it’s not free. The back room of the camper sustained water damage, and needs to be stripped and renovated. Mercer has taken on the project to pay back his friend.

Mercer said there’s so much money in White Rock that the “generosity makes it so easy.” He said the generosity, paired with a permanent shelter, would bring in all the “riff-raff.”

“The money is there, and that’s the problem. There’s too many people with too much time on their hands. They’re putting their fingers where they don’t belong and saying we need this, we need that. No, what I’m telling you is to stop. If you don’t stop, it’s going to go crazy.”

Mercer said he’s also seen drug use – particularly speed and heroin – quadruple in the past two years in the area.

Mercer said the food banks are “fantastic” and if people wish to be generous, they can donate nutritional food to those facilities.

Linda Doig – one of the volunteers behind the King’s Banquet Soup Kitchen, which offers a free dinner at Star of the Sea Community Centre every Tuesday – said she’s seen a gradual increase in the number of meals served every week. The group has been serving about 120 meals a week, which is up from 100 meals.

“People here don’t understand the hunger in White Rock because people think we’re so rich. But, of course, among that is terrible poverty,” Doig said.

Mercer said he and his partner receive welfare payments of $307 a month, and that he can feed three people nutritional meals for less than $17 per day.

Across the street from his camper is a restaurant where patrons are paying approximately $30 for a single entree.

“It doesn’t bother me one bit. You know why? They’ve earned that money. That’s how they like to spend their money. They won’t see my hand out there trying to get any. I don’t do that, I won’t do that,” Mercer said.

He noted that not far away, there are usually people standing on the road median with a sign asking for money, sometimes to purchase food.

“When you see these people with the signs, you know what I give them? A hard time,” Mercer said.

 

 

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The Alzheimer Society of BC is hosting a number of webinars next month to help people prepare for financial and healthcare needs. (Contributed photo)
Alzheimer Society invites White Rock residents to series of educational webinars

Planning Ahead: Do it Now! webinar to be held March 10

South Surrey’s Elizabeth and Marcel Bergmann – the Bergmann Piano Duo – will present another colorful Surrey Civic Theatres Digital Stage concert., premiering online March 11. Contributed photo
South Surrey pianists Bergmann Duo blend musical colours

Rhapsody In Blue meets The Red Violin in online concert

St. John Ambulance is looking for financial support in its bid to install 1,000 publicly accessible AED devices throughout British Columbia. The stands which hold the defibrillator also contain naloxone and first aid kits. Cost to equip and install each stand is around $8,000. (stock photo)
St. John Ambulance aims to install 1,000 publicly accessible AEDs across B.C.

First of two defibrillators planned for Crescent Beach already in place

(Black Press - file photo)
WEATHER: Enjoy the sun today, prepare for a week of rain

Clouds and rain to arrive by evening, Environment Canada forecasts

Alex Browne photo The felling of two mature Douglas Fir ‘eagle trees’ on Oxford Street, just south of Prospect Avenue, in June of 2019, prompted a review of tree management bylaws and policies now before White Rock council. The trees were felled on instructions from City of White Rock staff, who said the work was necessary because they had become hazardous. (File photo)
City of White Rock mulls ‘tree protection’ bylaw

More stringent measures needed to protect canopy – councillor

Abbotsford’s Kris Collins turned to TikTok out of boredom when the provincial COVID-19 lockdown began in March 2020. She now has over 23 million followers on the video app. Photo: Submitted
Internet famous: Abbotsford’s Kris Collins is a TikTok comedy queen

Collins has found surprise stardom alone with a phone

Alina Durham, mother of Shaelene Bell, lights candles on behalf of Bell’s two sons during a vigil on Saturday, Feb. 27, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO and PHOTOS: Candlelight vigil for missing Chilliwack woman sends message of hope

Small group of family, friends gathered to shine light for 23-year-old mother Shaelene Bell

A Vancouver restaurant owner was found guilty of violating B.C.’s Human Rights Code by discriminating against customers on the basis of their race. (Pixabay)
Vancouver restaurant owner ordered to pay $4,000 to customers after racist remark

Referring to patrons as ‘you Arabs’ constitutes discrimination under B.C.’s Human Rights Code, ruling deems

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Approximate location of the vehicle incident. (Google Maps)
Vehicle incident blocking Coquihalla traffic in both directions

Both directions of traffic stopped due to vehicle incident

Judith Uwamahoro is Black, approximately 4’7″ tall, 80 pounds and has short black hair and brown eyes. (Surrey RCMP handout)
UPDATED: Lower Mainland 9-year-old located after police make public plea

Judith Uwamahoro went missing Friday at around 4 p.m. in Surrey

Five-year-old Nancy Murphy wears a full mask and face shield as she waits in line for her kindergarten class to enter school during the COVID-19 pandemic on Tuesday, September 15, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Variant of concern linked to COVID-19 outbreak at three Surrey schools

Cases appear to be linked to community transmissions, but schools will remain open

BC Ferries experienced heavy traffic on Feb. 27 following cancellations the day before due to strong winds and adverse weather. (Black Press Media file photo)
BC Ferries sailings fill up quickly after Friday cancellations due to high winds

Waits expected on Swartz Bay-Tsawwassen route, Horseshoe Bay-Departure Bay route

Nanaimo children’s author and illustrator Lindsay Ford’s latest book is ‘Science Girl.’ (Photo courtesy Lindsay Ford)
B.C. children’s writer encourages girls to pursue the sciences in new book

Lindsay Ford is holding a virtual launch for latest book, ‘Science Girl’

Most Read