High rental prices pushing people to the brink of homelessness

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Increasing number of people in South Surrey and White Rock area who are one unexpected expense away from being homeless.  An expense as minor as a BC Hydro adjustment bill could put a struggling family in a tailspin.

Some people are having to choose between feeding their family, fixing their vehicle or paying rent, says Soraya VanBuskirk, advocacy program co-ordinator at Sources BC.

Sources BC offers a program called Rent Bank. The service provides small loans to people who fall behind on rent due to an unforeseen event.

VanBuskirk said the program is gaining popularity because of two factors.

“One is that the low cost units are disappearing. The (units) that are still available, the rent is getting jacked up. Quite considerably, $100 sometimes $150 in a six-month period,” she told the PAN last week.

“It’s a very difficult time right now.”

Another challenge at-risk of being homeless people face is figuring out what assistance services are available to them.

“When you’re a parent and you’re thinking you may not be able to keep a roof over your child’s head. You are in full crisis mode, it’s hard for people to think and concentrate when you are in that situation,” she said.

VanBuskirk said the South Surrey and White Rock area is in dire need of low-income and social housing.

That sentiment was echoed at the latest Peninsula Homeless to Housing Task Force (PH2H) meeting Oct. 7.

“Every time the rent goes up, and it has been going up quite dramatically for years. People who are on fixed incomes are having to make determinations whether they pay for medications, pay for food or pay for rent,” said Neil Fernyhough, chairman of PH2H.

Fernyhough said it’s important to note that while on the street homeless isn’t an extremely prevalent issue in the Semiahmoo Peninsula, there is a hidden homeless concern.

This could be anything from someone couch surfing to bouncing from Airbnb to hotel rooms.

“I think this is a lot more prevalent than people are aware of. There isn’t the statistic to put a hard number on it. How do you collect that statistic?” he told the PAN last week.

On-the-street homeless in the South Surrey/White Rock-area is much different than other parts of Surrey, but that doesn’t mean it should go unnoticed, he added.

“Part of the rational for addressing this is not to be reactive. This happens far too frequently in policy. The problem is not avoided, rather the problem is allowed to come then we respond to it.”

Members of the PH2H meeting also discussed how it can help in the March 17 regional homeless count.

Metro Vancouver Homeless Count found 403 homeless people in Surrey, which represents 15 per cent of the region’s 2,770 homeless.

PH2H task force members discussed that the 403 number is about a third of the actual amount of homeless living in Surrey.

Data from White Rock’s regional homeless count is pooled in with Surrey’s data.

PH2H will meet again Nov. 4 at 9:45 a.m. in the White Rock Baptist Church, 1657 140 Street.

Members of the public are welcome to attend the meetings.

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