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Funding for Homes for the Homeless – No longer just a promise – Now a solution.



Surrey has 650 homeless people and 470,000 residents.

As Whalley continues to develop, the local clash between the haves and the have-nots is becoming more evident. Businesses are growing impatient with the RCMP’s three year plan. They can’t afford to wait three years. They are tired of promises. Residents and business owners want solutions and answers now.

The business community in Whalley has been pressuring the city to crack down on the illegal activity stating that the lack of solutions is causing one business after another to close down. The more businesses that close down, the more the area becomes run down and derelict. While the brand new buildings go up at City Centre, Whalley looks more and more like the neglected child in the middle of Surrey’s prosperity.

City of Surrey Display Board

City of Surrey Display Board

Today, the Mayor of Surrey, Linda Hepner announced a partnership with BC Housing, Fraser Health and the Lookout Housing and Health Society with assistance from the Surrey Homelessness and Housing Task Force and the Surrey Rapid Response Housing Plan to end homelessness in Surrey.

The solution to homelessness is simple – give them homes. Give them the ability to become part of the community again. Support them as they rebuild their lives. It sounds utopian but it has worked in other cities and it seems that now it is Surrey’s turn.

Today’s announcement of three temporary modular-housing projects to be up and running by spring offering 160 supportive housing units which will include individual rooms with private bathrooms, meal service, counseling and medical office will do just that.

The announcement was made at City hall by the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing the MLA for Coquitlam-Maillardville, Selina Robinson.

“Surrey has the 2nd largest homeless population in the region. We have seen a 50 % increase from 2014. No one should be forced to live on the street without access to safe and supportive housing.

I am pleased to join the City of Surrey, Fraser Health and Lookout Housing and Health Society to announce our strategy to quickly and effectively help those that need it most here in Surrey.”

Last year the NDP announced a $291 million dollar commitment to 2000 building modular housing unit for the homeless. They also promised 170 million over three years for staffing and support services for people at risk. Today Surrey was the benefactor of some of those promised funds.

“We are announcing today a 13 million commitment to bring in approx.. 160 temporary modular homes at three sites in this city.” – Minister Selina Robinson

Mayor Hepner was pleased to welcome this announcement and to acknowledge the hard work done by councilors Vera Le Franc and Mike Starchuk as well as the other valuable partners in this initiative.   This announcement really showed Surrey at its very best. When everybody comes together and works together to solve a problem, each bringing their own vision and skills to the table we really get things done.

City of Surrey Display Board

Mayor Linda Hepner said:

“The need for accessible and secure housing has never been greater.

This is a two-phase plan. The Surrey Rapid Response housing plan allows for a graduated continuum of housing that will place individuals in the appropriate housing depending on the level of assistance that they require.

In phase one 160 temporary emergency modular homes will provide safe and secure housing to individual who require a high level of assistance such as those who have been sleeping in tents or other make shift shelters.

These transitional accommodations will be operating by highly experienced local non-profit housing providers.

Lookout will provide 25 hour operational staff at the three main locations ensuring residential support and maintenance.”

Lookout Housing and Health Society has been working to end homelessness since 1971. Lookout has been providing emergency shelter and services to Surrey north for over 25 years. They have brought this experience and commitment to this partnership and will be providing 24/7 staffing and offering life and employment skills programming.

Mayor Linda Hepner said

“When the emergency accommodations come on stream, it will be a very marked difference form what we have seen on 135a Street. As each unit will provide individuals with their own private bathrooms and storage for their personal possessions. Amenity space will be available within the complex as will the appropriate health services and meals.

Our goal for 135a Street is two fold. First to provide the safe housing to our most vulnerable, to give those individuals dignified and secure place to live in and 2nd to bring some semblance of normalcy back to the people who live and work in this area and once built, given the type of accommodation and number of spaces that are bring provided. I cannot think of a reason for anyone to pitch a tent on 135a Street.

In phase two, the 250 modular housing units that are slated to be completed by the end of they ear will allow the individuals currently in our existing shelters to move to more permanent independent living and that second phase is precisely the measure needed to ensure that those individuals that have made good headway in our supportive environments not fall through the cracks again.

The Green Timbers shelter will provide another 40-shelter bed and 40 transitional beds.

This is a significant step forward in dealing with homelessness here in Surrey. This comprehensive approach will go a long way to address the housing options for our most vulnerable residents.

Housing First and without Strings attached

The approach that has had the most success overall divides the homeless into two categories. There is the group of people who will be homeless only for a few weeks or a couple of months and then there are the chronically homeless meaning they have been on the streets for more than a year and have other problems such as mental health or substance abuse or other debilitating damage.

The majority of homeless fall into the first category. They are predominately men but there are women and whole families who spent short periods of time sleeping in their cars or at shelters but then eventually find a place to live.

The remaining percentage are the ones that fill the emergency rooms, jails, and shelters night after night. The cost of this type of care is between $30,000 to $50,000 US per year. (Interagency Council on Homelessness).

The past model used to handle these chronically homeless was to send them to drug rehabilitation programs of mental health counseling or both and if they stopped doing drugs or stopping displaying crazy behavior, then they would be provided with subsidized housing. They would be required to remain clean, sober and relatively sane in order to remain in subsidized housing.

While this linear residential treatment models seems logical, it doesn’t work. Chronically homeless people were often unable to complete their programs or stay clean on their first or second attempt and they would be back out on the street.

In 1992, Sam Tsemberis, a New York University psychologist tested a new model.

His simple idea was to give the chronically homeless a place to live, on a permanent basis, without making them pass any tests or attend any programs or fill out any forms.

“Why not just give them a place to live and offer them free counseling and therapy, health care, and let them decide if they want to participate? Why not treat chronically homeless people as human beings and members of our community who have a basic right to housing and health care?”

While it sounds too much like socialism, something expensive and something bound to fail, Tsemberis and his group, Pathways to Housing, provided 242 apartments to chronically homeless individuals without any prerequisites or requirements. They were encouraged to participate and given access to detox or rehab but it was not a requirement of their housing.

Five years later, 88% of those test case clients were still living in their apartments as a cost of care that was slightly less then it would have cost to maintain them on the street.

A New York City study of homeless with mental illness found that a per person cost of emergency room, shelter and other expenses of care were $50,000 per year.  Housing these same people saved $16,282 a year.

As the idea of Housing First began to spread to other cities feeling the costs of caring for people on the street, the results began to prove themselves nationwide.In Denver, Colorado, emergency costs went down 73% under the Housing First initiative.

“Going from homelessness into a home changes a person’s psychological identity from outcast to member of the community,” Tsemberis says.

The old model “was well intentioned but misinformed”. It is a long stairway that required sobriety and required stability in order to get into housing. So many people could never achieve that while on the street. You actually need housing to achieve sobriety and stability, not the other way around. But that was the system that was there.

Some people called the housing readiness program, an industry, because all these programs were in business to improve people to get them ready for housing.

These programs seem to operate on the idea that they need to first prove that they deserve this. They have to have improved their character or their behavior. Those who don’t understand the poverty cycle often believe that poor people are poor because they made bad choices.

” By contrast, Tsemberis says, Housing First provides a new sense of belonging that is reinforced in every interaction with new neighbors and other community members. We operate with the belief that housing is a basic right. Everyone on the streets deserves a home. He or she should not have to earn it, or prove they are ready or worthy.”

Poverty and homelessness can become an industry and the cost of this type of bureauacracy is high. One mother in New York City got a hold of a receipt of the monthly cost of her care in temporary shelters. For herself and her two young children, the state was paying $3,450. She was exasperated. “Give me $900 a month and I can find a place to live and care for my children.”

Other costs associated with homelessness go uncalculated such as the cost to local businesses in depressed areas or the cost of loss of tourism or reduced real estate value.

Medicine Hat adopted this strategy and saw their costs of care reduced.

According to the CBC report: Back in 2009, Mayor Ted Clugston was actively opposing the policy, which pledges to give any person who spends ten days on the street a home. Today, he has come to realize that not only does the policy work for the people, but it works for the government, too.

“This is the cheapest and the most humane way to treat people,” he told CBC.

Louise Bradley, President and CEO of the Mental Health Commission of Canada, helped conduct a study that supported Clugston’s claim. The study cost $110 million and looked at 2,000 people over five different cities, but its results were invaluable.

What they found was that when homeless people were told to “get clean” or find other ways to get their lives together before applying for housing, they inevitably fell back into cycles of drug use and poverty. That landed them back in emergency rooms, hospitals, detention centers and shelters — all things that cost tax money. Speaking to CBC, Glugston estimated that it costs $20,000 to house a homeless person for the year and close to $100,000 to keep them on the street.

Housing First puts everything on its head. It used to be, ‘You want a home, get off the drugs or deal with your mental health issues,'” Clugston told CBC. “If you’re addicted to drugs, it’s going to be pretty hard to get off them, if you’re sleeping under a park bench.”

And it worked. City officials have said it typically doesn’t even take 10 days to find people housing. Emergency room visits and interactions with police are dropping in Medicine Hat, while court appearances have actually gone up. The reason?

“They end up dealing with their past, atoning for their sins,” Clugston said.

The answer to solving the homelessness issue is three-fold

  • Provide temporary shelter
  • Provide permanent housing
  • Provide assistance programs

City of Surrey Display Board

City of Surrey Display Board

Today’s announcement has done that and more. Dc Victoria Lee from Fraser Health talked about their commitment to the partnership and providing the proper support and assistance to allow people to gain control of their lives once again.

“Intensive case management support to those who are suffering from mental health and substance abuse disorders in the modular housing units.

The daily struggles that faced by the individuals that are difficult and not easily understood. There are core and underlying pain and trauma with also very complex health and social needs.   We see that these individuals are invisible in our society and shunned.

The basis needs for the individual starts with having a place to call home. This is a fundamental requirement for rehabilitation.”

Fraser Health provides additional support service from a Housing First approach. It is important to note that we put the individual needs at the centre. The person is looked from a whole individual perspective instead of just focusing on substance abuse or mental disorder.”

With successful engagement from intensive case management teams, they are able to reduce the harms from the substance abuse and provide more stability.

A communities core values are reflected in the way we treat our most vulnerable populations and I also believe that today’s announcement is a great reflection of Surrey as a community that is caring, compassionate and inclusive.”

Dc Victoria Lee – Fraser Health

City of Surrey Display Board

By stabilizing people through shelter, moving them into permanent housing, and implementing assistance programs to keep them in their housing, we can not only eliminate homelessness in our city.

Wes Everaars from the Lookout Society said

“This new minimal barrier accommodation is so badly needed. This will help individuals stabilize and get connected to the services that they need. The number of shelter beds that lookout operates has grown in the last two years from 40 beds to 160 beds. A shelter is not a home.

With the announcement today of over 160 units, we will now have a place that they can call home.”

City of Surrey Display Board

At Risk Populations:

Among the *400 people counted in 2011; the majority were single men (63%). Service providers identified several other groups, often not well captured by the Count, to be particularly vulnerable to repeat homelessness. These include:

Women, including single women, women with children and sex-trade workers (37% of Surrey’s 2011 homeless population)

Youth-at-risk, particularly Aboriginal and immigrant youth and

Aboriginal singles and families (24%)

*This year’s count has the homeless in Surrey at 608 people.

City of Surrey Display Board

Surrey and its residences are impacted by the need in this city. It is the front and centre at the entrance to our city. It is the first thing most people see after crossing the bridge.

Surrey is known for its generosity of spirit and its support of marginalized people If they can do it in Medicine Hat – we can do it here. Today, the people, organization and leadership in Surrey proved just that.

As Mayor Linda Hepner so eloquently put it.

“Given the type of accommodation and number of spaces that are being provided. I cannot think of a reason for anyone to pitch a tent on 135a street.”

Mayor Linda Hepner with Councillor Vera LeFranc, Wes Everaars from Lookout Society, Dc. Victoria Lee from Fraser Health, Garry Begg MLA for Surrey Guildford, Minister Selina Robinson, Minister of Municipalities and Housing, Councillor Mike Starchuk, Rachna Singh MLA for Surrey Green Timbers and Bruce Ralston, MLA Surrey Whalley and the Minister of Jobs, Trade and Technology.

Sources Links:

This article was submitted by a reader from the Surrey Community. You can submit your own community story, press release, event or public notice directly to our Community Board today! We also have advertising and promotional options for businesses.

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Community Board




As residents of the lower mainland keep their eyes glued to the television in hopes of receiving positive updates in relation to this global pandemic, they are disappointed and disheartened by the exponentially increasing infection and death rate of the highly contagious COVID-19. The timeline and increase in numbers are highly reminiscent of the early days of the COVID-19 outbreak in Italy, which has now amassed to over 59 000 infections and over 5000 deaths. With Canada seeming to follow these footsteps, one must wonder: “What are we doing wrong?” And, “how can we stop the spread of disease?”

To combat COVID-19, the World Health Organization recommends extensive testing, contact tracing, quarantining, isolation, and social/physical distancing. Although many of us have taken it upon ourselves to undertake the latter half, the BC government is only implementing public COVID-19 testing for those with respiratory symptoms who require hospitalization or were in specific locations with a large number of cases. However, this puts the general public at risk as, arguably, testing is the most important factor in countering the virus, with WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus claiming, “We have a simple message for all countries: test, test, test.” Echoing that statement, Andrea Crisanti, an infectious disease expert working in Italy, says “Test the neighborhood, test the relatives, test the friends, and isolate all positive individuals. If you do it now, you will stop the disease.”

Furthermore, if we are not testing – we cannot be contact tracing. Community transmission cases will not be tracked if we do not know who is sick to begin with, as the majority of those infected show only minor symptoms. Individuals with mild cases are more likely to be the ones that ignore social distancing guidelines. They may be going to work, going on grocery runs, or they may be one of those people we saw on the beaches of Vancouver, blatantly ignoring the appeals of Dr. Bonnie Henry, our provincial health officer. If social distancing rules are not being enforced, then at least rigorous testing should be.

Our current approach of only testing those that require hospitalization or those who were recently in a localized area with a large number of cases is nowhere near as effective as the policies set in other countries. South Korea, for example, has implemented the process of rigorous testing and it has allowed for the rate of infection to decrease. They were the first to incorporate multiple locations for drive through tests, and to date, have tested over 330 000 people, as opposed to Canada’s 88 883 (as of 5pm March 22nd, 2020). As of March 16, 2020, the infection rate in South Korea has been steadily declining, and currently, the fatality rate in South Korea for COVID-19 is 0.7%, which is drastically lower than the global average of 3.4%. It seems intuitive that Canada should start testing to the degree that South Korea is. Despite the BC government’s statement that testing is not necessary unless you’re a critical case, the truth is that we are actually not testing because we do not have the resources.

Therefore, the question becomes: “How come other countries are capable of testing at a much higher rate than we are?” One of the factors that has allowed South Korea to test rigorously is a rapid approval system that was put in place in response to the SARS pandemic that threatened the world in 2002-2003. Although we weren’t as prepared for a pandemic, we do currently have options that could allow us to reach the testing levels of South Korea. Canada could fast track test kits by looking at which tests are being approved in other countries. This could also battle the dilemma of facing limited resources by implementing different types of tests other than the popular nasopharyngeal swab. Many labs are coming out with various versions of rapid testing that detect antibodies via blood sample. These rapid tests allow anywhere from a 10-minute to 3-hour window to give a positive or negative result. Bangladesh and the United States have recently given the approval to use these alternative tests to the nasal swab so they can follow the WHO’s recommendation to “test, test, test.”

It is essential that we as a community come together to put pressure on our representatives to approve and implement rapid test kits so BC can catch up to the rest of the world in fighting this virus. We can contact our representatives, MP’s, and politicians for the safety of everyone in our community, including our grandparents, parents, and our immunocompromised friends. Please take a moment to look at the links below and write your concerns regarding our government’s lack of testing. If we put pressure on our government to fast-track more testing methods, perhaps we could all go back to our daily routines faster, and in the process, save a few lives.


City of Surrey


Mayor Doug McCallum:

Phone: (604) 591-4126



Member of Parliament for Surrey-Newton

Sukh Dhaliwal

Phone: (604) 598-2200


Member of Parliament for Surrey Centre

Randeep Sarai

Phone: (604) 589-2441






-CDC Testing Procedures:


-Advice from Italy:

-Key is to Test:

-Opinion Piece – Vancouver:

-South Korea Testing:

-Status Quo due to Testing Shortage:

-Testing for Health Care Workers:

-Bill Gates take on testing:

-South Korea’s success:

-Importance of testing mild symptoms:–ydCElzcEE6FiJaDf6kcD11zD7zts6iJuUItfbdLkuo1GLmDte4

-Rapid Testing:

-Bangladesh Rapid Tests:

-Low Resources:

-Coronavirus in South Korea:

-Why we aren’t testing:

-South Korea Infection Rate:–cyGF0ou_cEDsyeyx-0LOyujB-Y8

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Several charitable organizations around the metropolitan Vancouver area received, from the Church Of Christ (Iglesia Ni Cristo or INC), over 200 boxes of much-needed items for distribution to their beneficiaries, who have fallen on hard times.

These items included non-perishable food and personal care items as bath soap, shampoo, conditioner, toothbrushes, toothpaste, razors, socks, brushes and combs, blankets, hats and gloves. These were donated by the members of the Church’s local congregations in and around the city under the Ecclesiastical District of British Columbia.

Through the auspices of the Church’s charitable arm, Felix Y. Manalo (FYM) Foundation, ecclesiastical districts all over the world held Aid to Humanity events in their respective areas of jurisdiction.

The socio-civic event conducted by the British Columbia District benefited the following charity organizations:

  • Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre – a non-profit organization that provides shelter, meals and support to women and children who are homeless or at risk of violence
  • Russell Residence and Housing Centre – a year-round emergency shelter in New Westminster that operates under the Lookout Housing & Health Society to help those with no or minimal income
  • Bill Reid Place – Part of the Options Community Services Society, this organization provides meals and housing in the Cloverdale area of Surrey
  • Covenant House – a shelter that specifically provides assistance to Vancouver youth
  • Loaves & Fishes Community Food Bank in Nanaimo and The Greater Vancouver Food Bank at The Food Hub in North Vancouver.

Bruce Strom, Senior Manager of Homelessness Services at Options Community Services commented: “I think great organizations are stepping up and really try to create that positive social impact that communities around our country and around the world really need. It’s mainly through faith organizations that we get such positive social connections, and the willingness to reach out and try and help people who are the most in need. I would really like to give my thanks to the Church Of Christ for the generous donation today. That’s going to really improve the lives of many people that we are giving shelter to.”

In May of 2019, the largest Aid to Humanity Tour in Canada was able to extend assistance to 36 organizations and thousands of individuals in the fight against poverty.  Humanitarian and outreach efforts through the FYM Foundation, and the INC Giving Project are often carried out by Iglesia Ni Cristo members to lend a helping hand to their fellowmen in need, as it is a biblically prescribed Christian virtue.

“There are so many people around the world who need help. They really need help, not only materially, not only with their basic necessities, but even with their spiritual life, their faith. The Church of Christ will continue to provide assistance and give back to those in need, in this part of the world,” said Moriel Cadacio, district minister of the 17 congregations in British Columbia.

For more about the Church and its activities, please visit

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Surrey Reads for Spring Break



Spring Break is right around the corner and what better way for your kids to spend their free time than with a good book? Surrey Libraries can help make Spring Break reading fun while also keeping children’s literacy skills sharp!

Whether you’re staying close to home or traveling, Surrey Libraries recommends that kids read throughout the break. “Reading helps children learn, explore and develop their curiosity,” says Rei Kitano, children’s librarian at Surrey Libraries City Centre branch “It helps children connect their world – including family and friends.”

And if your family is going away for Spring Break, that doesn’t mean your child can’t take along a great book – or two – to read. Visit your local Surrey Libraries branch, check out the Spring Break displays and find a new book to read from our top 20 in 2020 Spring Break book lists for kids and teens at

Surrey Libraries also offers eBooks and downloadable audiobooks through the Libby and RBDigital apps for those who prefer to use a device for their reading while traveling or at home.

If you’re looking for fun, educational, and free activities for your child during Spring Break, don’t forget to check out the many programs Surrey Libraries offers to keep students occupied. STEM challenges, juggling workshops, and Dot and Dash Robotic Coding are just some of the programs available. You can find the list of programs in your local library branch or at

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Surrey Libraries Celebrates International Women’s Month



For over 100 years on March 8th, the world has celebrated women past and present who fought to obtain equal rights and opportunity for all women and girls. These extraordinary achievements made by ordinary women who rose above adversity with courage and determination continues to empower the next generation of young women to find their voices and stand united toward creating equality.


Surrey Libraries recognizes the impact and importance of women in our community and value their positive contributions towards making Surrey a more literate, inclusive, and thriving city. What better way to celebrate International Women’s Month than by reading about the lives and stories of influential women throughout the generations?


Visit your local Surrey Libraries branch to check out the International Women’s Month book displays. Or, visit to check out the staff-compiled book lists for children, teens, and adults about current women’s issues, female empowerment, and equality. These resources inspire women and girls to pursue their dreams, as engineer, physician, and NASA astronaut, Dr. Mae Jamison reminds, “Don’t let anyone rob you of your imagination, your creativity, or your curiosity. It’s your place in the world; it’s your life.”


Women accomplish extraordinary things each day, some of which goes unnoticed. On March 8, take a moment to celebrate the women in your own lives and recognize the impact just one woman has on your life, whether it be a grandmother, mother, sister, daughter, or friend.

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If the Federal Government in Australia won’t act on climate change, what happens next?



For most Australians, 2019 will always be remembered as the year the country burned – wiping out 24 million acres of land, killing at least 28 people and destroying some 2,000 homes.

It was the year that blazes turned skies orange and made breathing the air dangerous for our health. An estimated 1 billion animals were lost, and scientists fear long-term damage to many sensitive ecosystems.

2019 will also be remembered by many as the year that Prime Minister Scott Morrison refused to acknowledge not only the clear and present danger presented by the bushfires, but the general public mood around his government’s inertia on the important issue of climate change.

A national disaster

And, to make matters worse, as the country continued to go up in endless flames that teams of firefighters were unable to control, climate change scientists from around the world commented that the apocalyptic scenes being portrayed by the media were definitely a sign of what is to come if climate change is ignored and temperatures are allowed to rise to dangerous levels.

For the past few decades, scientists have been very clear about global warming, saying that prolonged droughts and increased storm intensity are two of the most likely results of climate change.

As Greg Mullins, former commissioner of Fire and Rescue NSW and a climate councillor wrote in the Guardian newspaper: “Make no mistake: this disaster is a weather-driven event, not a fuel-driven one, underpinned by years of drying and warming. Climate change is the driver of increasing extreme weather.”

But as the national disaster continued to unfold, what became incredibly frustrating for Australians, is that the federal government really didn’t appear to be taking any notice. Nothing, it seemed, could sway Scott Morrison’s commitment to ‘no change’ to Australia’s existing climate policies – not the the Torres Strait taking Australia to the UN, school kids on strike, thousands of people marching the streets in protest nor comments made by the world’s most famous climate change activist, Greta Thunburg.

Then, bizarrely, on Christmas Eve, Nationals MP Barnaby Joyce (himself a farmer in drought) posted a video to social media suggesting that God is in fact the answer to climate change.

State and Local Governments need to act

But there was a voice of reason. And it came from a state politician.

In fact, New South Wales Minister for Environment Matt Kean broke ranks with his federal Coalition counterparts, arguing that not only was climate change very definitely a factor to be considered in the context of the bushfire crisis, but in a radio interview days before Christmas, he also said that climate change must be dealt with as a matter of ‘science, and not religion.’

And, in a move unusual for a politician, at the same time, he actually made a real commitment to change, announcing a plan to increase the NSW government’s emissions reduction targets. In doing so, he set an example for the rest of the state and territory governments around Australia. Because, if the federal government is going to sit on its hands for the foreseeable future, then the state governments must now pick up the mantle of climate change.

Public health emergency

In recent months, aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory have gone on record saying they fear being the country’s first climate change refugees, fears that are by no means unfounded.

Last summer was the hottest on record, and also the driest in 27 years. In the year to July 2019, Alice Springs reported 129 days over 35C, and 55 days over 40C. A heat monitoring study also showed that on some unshaded streets the surface temperature was between 61C and 68C. At the start of this summer, temperatures were also predicted to soar, only to be made worse by severe drought.

Several of the remote communities and outstations in northern and central Australia are already running out of water, others have exceptionally poor quality water.

Predictions by the Central Australian Aboriginal Congress for the health impacts of heat are dire. In its submission to the Northern Territory’s government’s climate change policy discussion paper, it outlined some of them: “Increased sickness and mortality due to heat stress, increased food insecurity and malnutrition, increased risk from infectious disease, poorer mental health and an increased potential for social conflict.”

In the weeks before Christmas, the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) too, also issued a climate change health emergency as Sydney suffered through thick haze measured at 11 times the ‘dangerous’ levels. Regional areas too were also covered in layers of smoke.

Despite the fact that Australia was held up as a global example of potential climate change catastrophe throughout 2019, we are, of course, not alone.

Tens of millions of people around the globe are also under significant threat from climate change.

In 2017, a study by the Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF) predicted that climate change would create the world’s biggest refugee crisis. The study called on governments everywhere to agree a new legal framework to protect climate refugees and for leaders to do more to implement the targets set out in the Paris climate agreement.

Communities can effect real change

The good news in all of this, is that where governments are failing, cities and local precincts are picking up the charge. One example is The C40 coalition (90+ cities representing 650 million people) including New York, London and Sydney have agreed to reduce their emissions in line with the ambitious elements of the Paris Agreement.

Another example is the regional town of Byron Bay on the far northern coast of New South Wales. Always well-known for its eco-friendly policies, in 2015 it set an ambitious target to be a “zero emissions shire” by 2025 by cutting greenhouse gases in a range of areas, through a plan that involves boosting renewable energy uptake, improving public transport and options for electric vehicles as well as changing land use practices and improving the management of its water and waste.

The role of business

Byron Bay is also home to innovative energy start-up Enova Energy which is working to localise renewable energy generation, storage and distribution via microgrids, solar gardens and other community energy models. No mean feat for a small company started with funding provided by 1600 local shareholders who believed in the power of the vision.

These businesses and communities are proving that they can do what the federal government won’t do – creating impactful change at a grass roots level.

Undoubtedly, climate change is an issue for federal governments to manage – there needs to be clear policy set for the entire nation, but if recent times have shown us anything it is that climate change can’t wait. The sense of urgency is gathering momentum, and as such, State and Local governments as well as business and community groups may well be the ones to successfully lead the charge.

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