Whalley. The good, the bad and the ugly. It’s a neighbourhood that has seen a lot of attention with Surrey’s ongoing struggle to fight violent, drug, and property crime.
But it’s also a neighbourhood full of contrasts.
Join CKNW’s Janet Brown as she takes a stroll through an area in transition, for her neighborhood series report.
Apparently somebody was hit by a cyclist, and the man was shot in the stomach. He’s expected to survive.
The shooting took place just a few steps away from the Surrey Urban Mission, where there’s dozens of people gathered, pushing shopping carts, sleeping in tents, sitting on the sidewalks, trading their wares, going and coming.
The Mission is only about half a block from one of Surrey’s RCMP detachments along the King George.
Not too far away is the “Round Up Cafe.” It’s a restaurant that’s been here for decades, a local hang out, people come from far and wide to have a meal, mainly breakfast.
Tanya Abendroth is the manager.
“I’ve worked here for 40 years now, I do all the ordering, I do everything here. The owner comes in and works and helps out and then she goes home.”
Abendroth says in the job she’s seen a all kinds of people.
“There is a huge variety, we’ve had a lot of turn over. When I started here we had the same people still coming in up until they passed away and the last one I think was three years ago, he passed away which was so sad but other than that we’ve had people coming in here for years, the same clientele, new clientele and they love the food, they come back and that’s what we want, just to keep our clientele and keep them happy.”
Abendroth admits the area has a reputation, bolstered by rising crime in the neighbourhood, but she sees positive change too.
“Since I started here there were a lot of drug dealings out back, there were a lot of hookers out back but that’s been cleaned up pretty darn good. We still have the odd hooker coming in and as for drug dealings we don’t have too much of that anymore. I haven’t seen, the really bad, part of it mind you I did have my car stolen from out back here when I was at work but I got it back and it wasn’t wrecked so that was good.”
So with recent attempts at a cleanup, is the area improving? Abendroth says for the most part, she feels safe.
“It has been cleaned up a lot but there are still some days, like we have people working next door here and when I get here at 4:30 in the morning there’s people lined up waiting for work so I know I’m safe walking around the building and on Sunday mornings when nobody is here I park out front. I don’t like the idea of having to walk by myself around the building. Now that’s my fault because I come in and I start early otherwise we have somebody to walk people in, we first open at 7 am, so it’s daylight we are always watching for when they get here and nobody has to walk in alone so they are fine.”
A Neighbourhood of contrasts
Not far away from the Cafe, about a block west, is the BC Lions training facility on City Parkway.
But what a contrast! Here we have expensive vehicles in the parking lot and on the very same street, right across the street, we have tents that are pitched by the homeless people, sitting on sidewalks, riding bikes, pushing shopping carts, everywhere I turn it seems like there are homeless people wandering around or just parked on the sidewalk.
Walking along 135th now, where on both sides of the street we have tent after tent, person after person sitting on the sidewalk chatting, on their bikes, pushing their worldly goods – suddenly I’m nearly struck by someone on a bicycle.
Are you trying to purposefully hit me? Is that what you’re trying to do? Man, it’s like he tried to hit me, am I not welcome here?
Is that what it is, am I an outsider looking looking in?
Stephen Gammer has lived in the neighborhood for years now, and says it’s his home.
“I guess I live in Whalley because I can afford it for one and there are services the mass transit in the area that is close by, there are lots of shops, there is the North Surrey Rec Centre. There’s baseball, there’s parks and such, there’s the Fusion Festival so there’s good things about being here, they try and look after the community and the people but ya, there’s lots of challenges.”
Gammer says it’s a fine line between people who are getting by, and those who aren’t… those reduced to living on the streets, surviving out of a shopping cart.
“You have the kids who are playing at the Whalley ballpark or playing soccer on the fields and literally across the street you have guys pushing shopping carts and that’s the only thing they have in their entire life. The neighborhood is changing it’s getting both worse and better at the exact same time because you have the people who are doing good and the neighborhood is improving for them but the people who don’t have the services are, uh, life is definitely getting worse for them.”
Gammer says that’s where Whalley’s reputation becomes such a tricky thing. While there’s ample truth to the image, the neighbourhood can’t be reduced to a caricature.
“We get a bad rap for sure but the thing is actually in some ways Whalley deserves it. As much as the city is spending money, you’ve got one part of the city that is going to be building up highrises and everything but you have the impoverished people that are completely being left behind.”