The Whalley Window – January 20, 2018

Homes Not Jails! Windows Not Bars!

Download the PDF of The Whalley Window – Issue 6.

Is this Housing or Prison? 
By The Whalley Window Team

On Friday, January 12, 2018, the Provincial NDP government and the City of Surrey announced plans for 160 units of temporary housing, followed by 250 units of permanent housing, specifically earmarked for the people living in tents along 135A Street.

Before we uncork the champagne or smoke up in celebration, let’s have a closer look at the details of this plan.

The 160 units of temporary housing are essentially used construction trailers that are divided into individual rooms, equipped with bathrooms and provided with meal service. These trailers will be located on three lots, accompanied by medical offices, skills programming and 24/7 staffing by Lookout. An Intensive Case Management (ICM) team will be set up at one of the sites to provide support services.

Surrey mayor Linda Hepner said these units will provide people with “a dignified and secure place to live,” but the design and description of this housing reveals a prison-like complex. Everyone gets a box with a bathroom, is kept under constant surveillance by staff, and managed by social and healthcare workers with free access to police. As “supportive” housing, residents will have no tenant rights, no privacy and no autonomy. Clearly NOT dignified housing.

Under phase two of the plan, these 160 units will be replaced by 250 units of “permanent modular housing” with the same slate of supports (that is, permanent surveillance and control). Details concerning the locations and the type of modular units in these projects have not been disclosed.
Mayor Hepner was pleased with the announcement, because the 160 temporary units will usher in the removal of everyone from 135A. “Once built,” she said, “given the type of accommodation and number of spaces that are being provided, I cannot think of a reason for anyone to pitch a tent on 135A Street.”

There is, of course, one very good reason: 160 or even 250 units of housing falls far short of what is needed to address the homelessness crisis in Surrey. The latest count was over 600 (with the actual numbers being two or three times higher), and increasing steadily.

So this plan does not deliver the dignified housing that low-income people in Surrey so desperately need; it is a 135A cleanup campaign that involves the removal, warehousing and management of homeless people in jail-like conditions so that business owners, landlords and developers can make huge profits from the City’s gentrification schemes for Whalley.

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