Three Safe Surrey Coalition councillors were appointed as the directors of the Surrey Homelessness and Housing Society in a closed council meeting on June 29. This was after Mayor Doug McCallum decided to not elect a new board, during a meeting that was in-camera, or closed to the public.
Councillor Brenda Locke, who had been chairwoman of the 11-member board when it was dissolved, said at the time that the decision not to elect a new board to the society, which had been helping people since 2001, should have been discussed in open council.
The appointment of Councillors Laurie Guerra, Mandeep Nagra and Allison Patton as directors has since been posted to the city’s website.
Guerra said Surrey’s mayor and council value the society’s accomplishments since 2007, and “the contributions of its committed volunteer directors over the years to build the organization that has funded so many valuable projects and programs in Surrey.
“We now wish to look at different governance options for SHHS to ensure the best possible delivery of funds and services to the community in Surrey,” Guerra told the Now-Leader. “Mayor and council are committed to continuing the legacy of good work carried out by SHHS over the years and at this time all we have changed is the directors.”
But Locke said she’s disappointed council “did not appreciate” the work that the volunteer board had done.
“They worked hard to ensure that there was equity in how the grants were provided,” Locke said. “There is just about $11 million in that fund that I think we’re going to have to ensure that it goes to where it’s meant to go.”
Vancity Foundation controls the money, she noted.
“It was directed by the society but it’s held by Vancity. So they have their work to do just to try and figure out what money goes where and how much was actually the city’s money initially that went into it because of course since that time there has been money raised by the society from people in the public, from corporations, there’s been lots of money raised by various entities.”
Locke said she doesn’t know why the board was disbanded as “it was never fairly explained to either myself or to our directors. I know that the mayor wants the money controlled in house, similar to what he did with SCDC.
“He said to me at the time he wanted it similar to the Green City Fund, that’s what he said. Well, that’s a big concern to me because we’ve just seen in this last round of discussions that some of the Green City Fund money is going into covering the losses for COVID, so that’s a concern to me,” she said last week. “This money was raised very specifically to support housing and housing initiatives in Surrey.”
McCallum said Monday the city won’t be”dipping” into that fund to cover pandemic-related losses.
Nagra told the Now-Leader he needed to get “more details” before commenting on the society’s next course of action. Former Surrey mayor Bob Bose remarked that Locke was probably ejected from the board because it’s “open warfare” on city council. “To dismiss the entire board and then appoint three members of council to it, I argue, is not supported,” Bose said.