“We have no options at all, nothing.”
It’s a frustrating daily routine for Surrey’s homeless, as well as police and bylaw officers.
CKNW’s Charmaine de Silva is on the Whalley Strip, as officers force people, their carts and tents out of the area.
It happens every morning, and on many nights.
Tina, who lives on the street, says Surrey Mounties, with help from city workers, tell them to pack up and leave.
But she says with shelters full, there is no other option.
“Where else are we going to be? Because there’s nowhere else to go and this is where the facilities are for us…to help us.”
Tina says her wish would be to have a roof over her head, some heat and some food.
But for now, its a few blankets and tarps that create a makeshift tent every single night.
But while questions linger about how to handle Whalley’s so-called strip, local business owners say something needs to happen now – with some of them warning street disorder is could force them under.
“Every day it kills my business a little bit more, until I’m just about ready to fold the doors now.”
Frank Kirby moved his Barber shop from Burnaby to Whalley 20 years ago — but he says in the last decade the “strip” along 135-A has changed radically.
“There was so many drug peddlers and drug users up there all night long partying. And then they started setting up tent cities.”
He says that change has driven away clients that followed him across the Fraser to Surrey.
“People won’t come into the shop. People that I’ve serviced for 30, 40 years.”
Kirby says he knows there’s no easy answer — but that without some kind of revitalization he’ll be forced to hang up his clippers.
Assistant Commissioner Bill Fordy, who heads the Surrey RCMP says the situation on the strip is difficult, and is a product of a lack of resources.
He says the RCMP is in talks with the city, which is also talking to the province and looking for solutions… but in the short term, the police often end up as the social service agency of last resort.
He says the daily cleanups are part of trying to strike a difficult balance between the interests of local residents, and the needs of the homeless.
“Being homeless is not illegal – it’s a significant social issue where the people who are homeless often suffer from drug dependencies or addictions. They in fact are subject to predatory behavior by people who come in to prey upon them, sell them drugs, beat them, have them commit other crimes.”