The face of homelessness in the Lower Mainland is changing – in age. Seniors and children form a steadily growing portion of clients in our shelters. In just three years, the number of homeless women we serve who are between 50 and 64 has grown by 18 per cent. The number of women over 65 has jumped by 50 per cent.
Families are another growing segment of homeless clients. Thirty-two per cent of those staying in our shelters are children.
Collectively, EFry’s shelters operate at capacity year-round. We are now working with a consultant to explore options for combining our two Surrey shelters, Cynthia’s Place and Sheena’s Place, so we can maintain our staff-client ratios and increase the number of beds without additional staffing costs. Between our Surrey shelters and Elizabeth Gurney House in New West, we provided shelter for 391 homeless women and 123 children. Demand far outstrips supply; however, when someone comes to stay at an EFry shelter, we don’t ask them to leave after a prescribed length of time. We work to help them until they are housed, ideally in their own communities where they can tap into the support and social connection of family and friends.
EFry’s supportive approach to helping clients enables women to address factors linked to their homelessness, as well as find affordable housing at social assistance rates in areas like Surrey where there is limited housing stock. This differs from the increasingly popular Housing First model that moves homeless people directly into housing without requiring attention to the challenges that led to homelessness in the first place. While awaiting housing, EFry assists women in connecting with community services for issues such as mental health, addictions, medical care, financial needs and reconnecting with family members. In this way, when housing becomes available, women are ready for the opportunity.