Whalley Printers owner Pete Nichols and Crime Prevention Coordinator Colleen Staresina sit in on a brainstorming session on homelessness Tuesday.

Surrey businesses brainstorm on homelessness

Group calls for national housing strategy and more affordable housing

Mark lived on the “mean streets” of Toronto for years.

Ravaged by his lifestyle, he was often seen by his nieces begging for money downtown. Out of shame, embarrassment and pity, they turned and walked away, so as not to be seen.

“Despite his demeanor, he was a gentle soul,” an emotional Peter Simpson said of his younger brother. “We told him we loved him, and he was gone.”

He finally succumbed to the damage caused by his lifestyle.

Simpson, also the President and CEO of the Greater Vancouver Home Builders Association, told the story Tuesday to a group of about 100 at Eaglequest Golf Course during a brainstorming session called a Business and Homelessness Dialogue hosted by the Surrey Board of Trade.

Homelessness is not so much about housing, but about a loss of “connectedness,” said Simpson, who also sits on Surrey’s Homelessness and Housing Society.

He listed several reasons why business should get involved with helping solve the problem, including lower health and social costs, stronger economy, healthier work environment.

“More than that, it’s the right thing to do,” he said.

Simpson was followed by Graham Newberry, who accessed local services four years ago to get his own life back and has since become a successful realtor.

The audience then broke into groups of about 15,  to discuss how homelessness affects their community and business and what can be done about it.

Colleen Staresina, Crime Prevention Coordinator for Whalley, offered a list of effects homelessness brings to the community, includng; an illusion of disorder, fear of crime, increased calls for service from police, city response and issues of mental health and addiction.

Government can throw a lot of money and support at these things, she said, but unless it’s coordinated, it will be of little use.

Pete Nichols, owner of Whalley Printers, said his community in North Surrey has decayed since the creation of the social services on 135 A Street in Whalley, including the Front Room Drop In Centre.

Nichols feels the term homelessness has just become a “catch phrase” for a host of problems plaguing society, including mental health and addiction.

To adequately deal with homelessness, the root problems have to be isolated and fixed.

Staresina cautioned the breakout group that often the homeless are looked on as vermin, “and the police as pest control.”

Coast Capital’s Jack Boyce later summarized the group’s comments by telling the crowd there’s a huge fear of the homeless and that the community has to take ownership of the issue. He noted that public education will be key, as will more affordable housing and supported housing for people with mental illness.

He said business can play several roles, including encouraging government to hire the homeless.

Common themes among those reporting to the group were a need for more affordable housing, a national housing strategy and a continuing dialogue amongst business leaders to find innovative solutions.

Anita Huberman, CEO of the Surrey Board of Trade, said there will be a follow up “Call to Action” prepared by this November.

It will include many of the recommendations that arose from Tuesday’s event, including the need for a national housing strategy and more affordable housing.

The board will also be polling civic officials on the subject prior to the municipal election and making those findings public.

@diakiw

 

Just Posted

City, RCMP tackling “distressed” Surrey properties

The idea is to improve public safety and social concerns in Surrey’s neighbourhoods

White Rock restaurant serving up support for youth mental health

June 25 fundraiser at Uli’s organized in honour of the late Anthony Bourdain

Annual party at Science World helps fund Surrey student field trips there

Video by Newton-area student Ali Naqib shows him and classmates at 30-year-old Vancouver landmark

Surrey RCMP searching for missing 15-year-old Aboriginal girl

Police say Megan Hindmarch was last seen in the 12400-block of 97B Street at 8 p.m. on June 18

OUR VIEW: Silos won’t solve overcrowding in Surrey’s schools

It’s going to take a concerted team effort from all levels of government to improve this situation

VIDEO: Rare white killer whale captured by drone near Campbell River

The transient orca has been named Tl’uk, a Coast Salish word that means ‘moon.’

B.C. imposes interim moratorium on resource development to protect caribou

The caribou population in northeastern B.C. has dwindled over the last two decades

B.C. sculptor depicts epic eagle battle in latest piece that took 2,500 hours

Clasped in one of the raptor’s talons is each one’s desire: a living venomous diamondback rattlesnake

Students disciplined after anti-LGBTQ signs posted in Kamloops high school

Vessy Mochikas, SD73’s principal for inclusive education, called incident a learning opportunity

Air Canada expects Boeing 737 Max to resume flying by September or October

Air Canada isn’t worried about safety of the planes, says vice-president

‘The Fonz’ gives thumbs up in letter to dyslexic students at B.C. school

Students in Maple Ridge reached out to Henry Winkler after reading one his Zipster books.

B.C. teen killed by falling tree near Victoria

Second youth also injured in freak incident during field trip at Camp Barnard near Sooke

Commercial fishers in B.C. now required to wear life-jackets on deck: WorkSafeBC

WorkSafeBC reports 24 work-related deaths in the commercial fishing industry between 2007 and 2018

Most Read

l -->