A program that makes downtown Surrey streets and parks safer and cleaner by collecting used needles and trash is scheduled to shut down in a week.
From April to August of this year, the Lookout Emergency Aid Society’s Rig Dig’s employees collected 21,099 discarded needles and 2,200 bins of garbage.
In all of 2015, the program cleaned up 24,175 needles, along with almost 2,000 bins of trash.
In July, the society issued a call for help, saying its peer-led Rig Dig program was in danger of ending, primarily due to the organization’s provincial gaming grant not being renewed this year.
Shane Williams, Executive Director of the Lookout Emergency Aid Society says they work with almost 350 homeless individuals every day in North Surrey.
“Employment programs for the most vulnerable people, you know people that are using drugs or intravenous drugs in particular, they’re not real common, you know it’s fairly cutting edge. We see the opportunity to really broker strong relationships with people that may be suffering from addiction concerns, raising their self esteems and opening the opportunity for them to do other thing sin their life and consider other lifestyle choices.”
The society’s annual peer programming funding from Fraser Health was also reduced by $15,000.
Last year, Lookout had a budget of $50,588 to operate Rig Dig — $4,215 per month. After the cuts, the only remaining funding for this year was $8,400 from Fraser Health, which is a combined fund for honorariums, health fairs and the Rig Dig program.
Williams says the responsibility for keeping the program alive has been shifted around, with no real help in sight.
“The Health Authority says the City should be contributing, the City says the Health Authority should be contributing, and the province …the gaming grants, unfortunately we weren’t successful on that. We’re hoping there’ll be a review.”