PRESS RELEASE: Surrey threatens to displace homeless encampment after opening new shelter

For Immediate Release
Monday, Nov 18, 2019

SURREY, BC (Unceded Coast Salish Territories): Homeless residents of a wooded area off of King George Blvd, known as the “billboards” encampment or “Sanctuary Tent City,” say they will not allow the City of Surrey to use the opening of a new shelter as an excuse to shut down the homeless camp. 

“Being forced into a shelter or pushed out into even more precarious sites of survival is not a solution. We need real homes,” said Carl, a resident of the camp. On Tuesday, November 19th, campers are holding a news conference to announce their plans to stay in the camp until they can move into secure, dignified, permanent housing, not temporary shelters. 

What: Press conference with homeless residents of the “billboards” encampment
When: Tuesday, November 19 at 10:00am 
Where: North side of King George Blvd and west of 112th Ave 

The new 24/7 shelter is opening in Whalley this week, and shelter operators say they will prioritize residents of the billboards encampment. Earlier this month, bylaw officers told campers that the encampment will be dismantled once the shelter is full. But campers say that moving into a shelter is not a pathway to permanent housing, and in fact, will only make their lives worse. 

When the City of Surrey forcibly dismantled the homeless encampment along 135A Street in June 2018, only 160 people received rooms in temporary trailer housing; everyone else was left to survive in shelters, on the streets, or in the bush. Opening a new 42-bed shelter is not sufficient for everyone who is homeless in the area. Many people will have to continue surviving outside. 

BC Supreme Court Justice Sharma ruled, in 2016’s Adamson decision, that shelters are not an adequate alternative for the protections against the dangers of homelessness that unhoused people find in encampments like Sanctuary tent city. 

Encampments like the one along King George Blvd are life-saving spaces where homeless people build community, help one another survive, and find a political voice. While the homelessness crisis continues and housing options remain insufficient, inadequate, and unaffordable, the City of Surrey has the responsibility to provide homeless communities with basic resources, rather than displacing them yet again.