Alex Wilks, Surrey Now-Leader contributor
The City of Surrey announced a new program aimed at providing better support vulnerable residents during a public safety event at Guildford Town Centre Saturday.
Surrey has partnered with bc211, a Vancouver-based non-profit organization that specializes in providing information and referrals regarding community, government and social services in BC. It is supported by United Way.
Through their website, text messaging service and 211 phone line they have operators ready to assist Surrey residents, and those from across B.C., 24 hours a day, and 7 days a week.
Their help line services include 211, the Alcohol and Drug Information and Referral Service (ADIRS), the Problem Gambling Help Line, VictimLink BC, and the Youth Against Violence Line.
The organization’s database of various agencies and programs aim to help seniors, youth, first nations, parents, refugees and various other groups.
The bc211 service also offers employment resources and maintains a list of shelter beds available, updated twice daily.
“We firmly believe that this is an integral part of the City of Surrey’s safety strategy,” said Nathan Wright, executive director of bc211. “When people know what supports are available to them that translates to safer communities for everyone.
“Often times the biggest barrier with getting help is knowing where to look,” he added. “Google is great but it simple can’t give you that human touch.”
This initiative is one of the 35 programs delivered under the City’s Public Safety Strategy launched in October 2016.
See more: Surrey unveils Public Safety Strategy
“Together we can raise awareness of the many services that are available in the community to help people,” said Mayor Linda Hepner. “The bc211 service covers everything from housing, to addiction support services, to services specific for First Nations groups, seniors and youth. It is a welcome addition to our Public Safety Strategy.”
Most people that attended the event said that they felt relatively safe in their communities.
“I live within a community that I can trust,” said Surrey resident Murad Raad. “I know everyone.”
Other community members think that certain neighbourhoods in Surrey are safer than others.
“We have good neighbours, it’s quiet, you don’t see any crime around,” said Roger Reid. “You hear about it. I know Surrey does have its issues. I think it’s more in other areas of Surrey but I think Cloverdale is quite safe.”
The public safety event Saturday was one of several public safety events planned by the city from now to May 13. From 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. interactive booths and volunteers offered information on a range of topics from crime prevention and personal safety to emergency preparedness and youth programs.
Click here for more information on bc211.