Surrey RCMP and the City of Surrey have unveiled a plan to deal with the Whalley Strip.
The new City Centre Response Plan includes a new outreach team of 12 RCMP officers and four bylaw officers who will be working out of a satellite office in the heart of 135A Street.
The team, which will be up and running as of tomorrow, will partner with health and community services to get the homeless the help they need.
Surrey RCMP officer in charge Dwayne MacDonald says the outreach team will provide a 24/7 presence of police, bylaws and social services.
“The focus of this team will be assisting vulnerable people who frequent the area, as well as assuring that others can live and operate their businesses safely,” he said.
At the same time, Fraser Health has announced it is moving ahead with an application for two pilot locations for safe injection sites in the area.
“Surrey, along with the rest of the province, has experienced a tragic spike in overdose fatalities, and supervised consumption services could help reduce the number of people dying,” said Health Minister Terry Lake in a statement.
“We have strong evidence from Insite that supervised consumption services reduce the transmission of disease, reduce fatal overdoses and help connect people to health care services.”
One of the pilot locations will be on 94A Street at Quibble Creek Sobering and Assesment Centre, the another one will be on 135A Street in a temporary building behind the Gateway Shelter.
Some people on the strip are giving the new team a thumbs up. Heather Snelgrove recently got into a shelter after living in a tent on 135-A Street for months.
Heather Snelgrove recently got into a shelter after living in a tent on 135-A Street for months, and says she’s pleased to hear the city and RCMP are changing the way they approach the issues in the area.
“I think it will be a good idea, as long as the outreach team gets people off 135A and into housing. As long as it’s for that, not off the street and just off that street,” she said.
Snelgrove says up until now, police and bylaw officers did a sweep every morning and cleared the strip, only for the homeless to return in the evening.
John Bertcco sleeps in a tent every night.
“A lot of issues down here still, eh? And you know like it’s kinda sad to see how some of the people are..how they’re living and how they’re going about it. Like me, I went from working a job to being a single parent,” he said.
In addition, Fraser Health has announced it’s looking to open two supervised injection sites, one near Surrey Memorial Hospital, the other on the Whalley Strip.