A firefighter and social service provider consult during the removal of a tent city in Whalley on Wednesday.

‘Where do you go if you have nothing and nowhere?’

Tent city dismantled in North Surrey, causing some to ask what happens to the homeless now?



At least 20 people were evicted from a tent city in Whalley this week, but service providers insist they will all have warm places to stay.

The group of about 20 tents had been on a vacant lot in at 105A Avenue and 135A Street for about four months.

They were initially located on a city property, but were moved at the direction of Surrey’s bylaw department. The group then moved over to an adjacent private property.

That property owner then complained to the city, prompting strategic meetings between the RCMP, Surrey bylaw officers, Fraser Health, Lookout  Emergency Aid Society and the Surrey Fire Department.

At 10 a.m. Wednesday, enforcement officials moved in to clear the property of the homeless and their tents.

Among the things hauled away were 10 to 15 propane tanks, presumably used for some kind of heating.

Paul, who was staying there last month, said options aren’t great when you’re living in poverty.

He was kicked out of the Front Room drop-in centre for a week after hitting another man with a laundry bag, in what he described as “horseplay.”

Either he finds some shelter – namely his tent – or he’ll freeze, he told The Leader at the time.

Jonquil Hallgate, executive director of the Surrey Urban Mission Society (SUMS), was at the site Wednesday when enforcement officials were tearing tents down.

“It’s a sad picture of Surrey,” Hallgate said. “If people had places to go, they would be there, they wouldn’t be here.”

The people camping there have no connection to family or friends and few alternatives as to where they might go, she said.

“The reality is, where do you go if you have nothing and nowhere?” Hallgate asked. “What do you do?”

Shayne Williams, executive director for the Lookout Emergency Aid Society, said all 20 or so people will be triaged at the Front Room Drop In Centre in Whalley and found places to stay.

“There are extreme weather beds we can open if we have to, so we’ll open to full capacity if we have to,” Williams said, adding 20 beds could be found at the Legacy Church in Fleetwood if needed.

He agrees with Hallgate in that it’s sad that anyone would have to live under such conditions.

“In this day and age, it’s absolutely horrendous – and in this weather – to see people live rough in tents,” Williams said.

“It definitely speaks to a lack of affordable housing in our community,” he said. “Our number-one challenge with all of the people we serve… is poverty. If they have money, they’re not staying with us.”

Surrey City Manager Vincent Lalonde said the city was cautious in how it proceeded after the landowner’s complaint.

A team was assembled to make sure housing was available for all the people that were living in tents, he said.

People living in the tent city were given a few days’ notice that it the eviction was coming so they could make plans as to what they wanted to do.

Meanwhile, Surrey council is expected to give final adoption to a plan to use land behind the Shirley Dean Pavilion near Surrey Memorial Hospital for a new shelter.

Williams told The Leader it would likely be a 40-bed homeless shelter, with 30 transitional beds and 30 affordable housing units.

He said it is being planned to be complete in 2018.

Lalonde said he wants it up and running before that.

“Our indication is the province is definitely open to provide funding for Surrey to build one of those,” Lalonde said. He’s hoping the design team will be working on the facility as soon as next year.

“And then we can start construction,” Lalonde said.

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

Just Posted

PHOTOS: B.C. Day long weekend on White Rock beach

Hundreds of families gathered at the beach Sunday

Seeds of Change Surrey to launch two new programs

United Way of the Lower Mainland donated $77,000

White Rock RCMP to host free bicycle registration clinic

Stolen registered bicycles are easier to return to proper owner if recovered

White Rock Concerts subscription series plans to weather pandemic

The White Rock Concerts series cancelled its 2020-21 season due the uncertainty of health risks

VIDEO: Otter pups learn to swim at B.C. wildlife rescue facility

Watch Critter Care’s Nathan Wagstaffe help seven young otters go for their first dip

Plane crashes into Nelson supermarket parking lot

Pilot and passenger have minor injuries

Michael Buble among 13 British Columbians to receive Order of B.C.

Ceremony will be delayed to 2021 due to COVID-19

U.S. border communities feel loss of Canadian tourists, shoppers and friends

Restrictions on non-essential travel across the Canada-U.S. border have been in place since March 2`

Rollout of COVID-19 Alert app faces criticism over accessibility

App requires users to have Apple or Android phones made in the last five years, and a relatively new operating system

Fraser Valley Bandits clinch playoff spot with win

Bandits down Niagara River Lions 70-57 on Sunday, improve to 3-2

Alleged impaired driver sparks small wildfire near Lytton after crash: B.C. RCMP

Good Samaritans prevented the blaze from getting out of control

B.C. First Nation adopts ‘digital twinning’ software to better manage territory

Software allows users to visualize what a mountain might look like if the trees on its slopes were logged

Most Read

l -->