Upkar Singh Tatlay, executive director of the Engaged Communities Canada Society, gets up early to drive community members who don’t have a home to a warming centre in a white multi-passenger van.
“There are so many people who need help,” Tatlay, who transports people on multiple trips from the end of November to March, told CBC.
Tatlay picks up unhoused people from an overnight shelter in Surrey and transports them to the Society’s Daytime Warming Centre in the neighbouring city of White Rock, knowing that exposure to a bitter cold can be fatal.
While overnight shelter is available at the South Surrey Recreation Centre, users must vacate by 6.30 a.m.
Tatlay then transports these individuals to the centre, which operates from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. on North Bluff Road and is supported by the city and public donations.
“People are sleeping in really difficult situations, so we are always trying to find out where they are,” he told CBC, adding that he also keeps an eye out for those who require shelter services.
“We see seniors, people who have been discharged from the hospital, and people who have undergone rehabilitation… Tatlay stated that while many people have good jobs, they cannot afford the high rents, cost of living, and food prices.
When Tatlay arrives with his first batch, they are greeted by volunteers who serve croissants and coffee.
In addition, the centre provides them with mental health and medical resources, as well as warm clothing and blankets.