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Coleman promises funding for homelessness prevention in Surrey

New incentives to reduce homelessness in Surrey today made Mayor Dianne Watts, a "happy mayor."

Today, the Ministry of Housing and Social Development announced that $32.9 million would be dedicated to the construction and development of two centres dedicated to people on the verge of homelessness.

Alder Gardens, consisting of 36 self-contained units for pregnant women and women with children facing homelessness and the Creekside Health and Housing Centre, dedicated to addicts facing homelessness, are "in the budget," said Minister Rich Coleman.

"Our goals are to help people move beyond temporary shelters to more secure housing within the communities across B.C.," Coleman told Surrey council members and supporters in front of the unfinished Maxxine Wright Centre of the Atira Women's Resource Society.

"We want housing with support for them, so they can actually change their lives, by not just having a home for them or a place to go, but the supports are there for them too, to deal with mental illness or addictions."

Watts explained that these programs are essential for the making of a strong city.

"We have to have that safety social net in place," Watts said. "We have to have buildings, we have to have programs for our residents that are less fortunate."

"We want to make sure when we build a city and a healthy city that we have these measures in place."

The projects are a collaborative effort, part of a memorandum of understanding the city and province established in 2008 to develop city-owned land.

The minister told reporters that the period of economic hardship was a good time to establish these projects as the low cost of construction may reduce the cost by 30 per cent.

When asked about the Liberal's spending priorities, Watts explained that she would continue to approach their government about issues in the Surrey community.

"It's a tough call to make, all I can do is go forward and say this is what the city of Surrey needs -- we have got the needs in transportation, we have needs in homelessness and housing -- and ask [the provincial government] to step up to the plate."

Morgan J. Modjeski is a reporter for The Hook.

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