Vulnerable Women and Girls Working Group
Learn how this multi-agency group proactively supports vulnerable women and girls in Surrey.
The Surrey Vulnerable Women and Girls Working Group (SVWG) formed in 2013 in response to a beating death of a woman, Janice Shore, who was homeless in Surrey. As her story emerged afterwards, it became clear that Janice's struggles with mental illness and addictions had increased her vulnerability and the challenges that she faced to meet her daily needs and stay safe.
The tragic and unnecessary death was a catalyst for action in the community as it became evident that Janice was not unique in her struggles. Non-profit agencies and government representatives came together to pool their knowledge and build their understanding of the unmet needs and challenges faced by vulnerable females in Surrey. They became the Surrey Vulnerable Women and Girls Working Group.
Virtually all participants spoke of the importance of having some women-only services in Surrey. Providing women-only services allows women to feel safe enough to consider making positive changes in their lives.
Source: In Their Own Words Report
Surrey Vulnerable Women and Girls Working Group
The goal of the Surrey Vulnerable Women and Girls Working Group is to take a proactive approach to supporting vulnerable women and girls in Surrey.
Since the SVWG has formed, it has conducted research, initiated collaborative planning and monitoring projects, offered anti-stigma training, fostered new cross-sectoral relationships and strategically supported the service sector. Read more about the SVWG’s accomplishments: Identifying the Issues & Supporting Change, Progress Report 2013-2019.
Currently the SVWG consists of representatives from a broad range of service agencies and government ministries primarily focused on health, safety and support services for women and girls in Surrey. Members include:
- Elizabeth Fry Society
- Options Community Services
- Lookout Housing & Health Society
- Pacific Community Resources Society
- Atira Women’s Resource Centre
- Surrey Women’s Centre
- Nightshift Street Ministries
- City of Surrey Social Planning and Community Safety
- Surrey RCMP
- Fraser Health
- BC Housing
- Ministry of Children and Family Development
- Public Safety Canada
Surviving the Night: the Night-time Safety and Service Needs of Vulnerable Women and Girls
The safety of vulnerable women and girls at night in Surrey has been identified as a key issue of concern. There are very limited services available at night in Surrey. The SVWG’s efforts in 2019 focused specifically on the night-time safety and service needs of vulnerable women and girls in Surrey. A survey and focus groups with street-engaged women and girls who are or have been involved in the sex trade were undertaken.
The research findings were presented at a community stakeholders’ forum. Participants discussed emerging trends, challenges and barriers, and potential solutions. Read the report to learn more about what services vulnerable women and girls need to stay safe at night in Surrey: Surviving the Night.
Leaders Forum: Vulnerable Women and Girls in Surrey
More than fifty committed community leaders came together on June 15 to share the latest initiatives and research on vulnerable women and girls in Surrey. Keynote speaker Michele Guerin delivered a powerful presentation on Reflections on the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. Updates were provided on the Surrey Mobilization and Resiliency Table (SMART), new housing projects for women in Surrey, and operations reports for night-time mobile service vans for women in Surrey. Findings for two research projects were shared: the Keeping Girls Safe Housing Project and the Opioid Dialogues for Women and Girls in Surrey.
Opioid Dialogues with Women and Girls in Surrey
2017 - 2018
As is happening across BC, Surrey is experiencing a crisis in illicit drug overdose deaths linked to synthetic opioids such as fentanyl and carfentanyl. Surrey has consistently seen the second highest number of overdose deaths in BC. Although women represent a small proportion of illicit drug overdose deaths in Surrey, vulnerable females in Surrey face unique barriers and have needs that are currently not being well met.
In 2017 - 2018, SVWG hosted a series of four dialogue sessions with women and girls, which focused on substance use and the current opioid crisis. During each of the facilitated sessions, the participants responded to questions about substance use and discussed their experiences. The participants varied in age and circumstance. Most had experience using opioids, while a few had regularly used alcohol, cocaine and crystal methamphetamine.
Women's Resource Card and Care Packages
On International Women's Day, March 8 2018, 300 care packages were handed out to vulnerable women and girls in Surrey. The packages contained coffee cards and chocolates, warm socks and personal hygiene items. The Surrey SMART Van distributed packages on the street, as well as through organizations that serve women and girls in Surrey. Thanks to all our generous donors who made this possible!
A Surrey Women's Resource Card was also created and distributed, highlighting services available for women and girls in Surrey.
Using a Gender Lens to Understand the Current Homeless Crisis in Surrey
Service providers in Surrey are speaking out about the growing numbers of people who are homeless and on the streets in the city. What they are also noticing is that a larger than usual proportion of this population is female. This is unusual because the homeless population in Surrey is typically predominantly male. The SVWG Working Group would like to understand what is changing and why there are a growing number of women who are homeless in Surrey.
In November - December 2016, the SVWG conducted research with service providers and women in Surrey who are experiencing homelessness. In December a Collaborative Workshop was convened with over 30 community leaders. The workshop shared research results, and started to identify priorities and plan a community response. Read the report: SVWG Briefing Doc Gendered Homelessness.
Enhancing Safety of Women and Girls on the Street
2015 - 2016
This project facilitated a collaborative planning process, with the goal of improving access to services for street-engaged women and girls in Surrey. The City received funding for this project from Violence Free BC, an initiative of the Victim’s Services and Crime Prevention Division of the Ministry of Justice, to develop this innovative partnership. Read more in the summary document or below:
Workshops: The SVWG held three half-day workshops during 2015. Participants reviewed research findings contained in the In Their Own Words report, listened to presentations about best practices and strategized together to identify priority projects. Over 50 people representing 24 government and non-profit organizations attended.
Reference Group: Workshop participants were supported by a Reference Group of women and youth who have had street experience in Surrey. The Reference Group met several times over the course of the project to provide input, ideas and feedback. They made sure the proposed projects would be relevant and meet the needs of women and youth in Surrey.
Key projects: These projects were identified by the SVWG and reviewed by the Reference Group. SVWG members are currently working to implement these priority projects.
- A Surrey Mobile Assault Response Team (SMART) Van - a mobile crisis service centre for sex workers. The van reaches women at the street level where they work, reducing barriers to access vital aid, resources and options.
- A Night-time Drop In for Women that provides a range of services and supports.
- A Night-time Drop In for Youth: A welcoming space for youth that is open at night-time providing a range of services and supports.
- Anti-stigma initiatives including sensitivity training for people who come into contact with sex workers in the course of their working day. In 2016, SVWG organized anti-stigma workshops for front-line service workers, facilitated by Living in Community.
- Improving access to information including improving and coordinating on-line resources and improving computer access for street-engaged women and youth. In 2016, the City of Surrey donated recycled cell phones and laptops to organizations working with vulnerable women and girls through Digital Inclusion initiatives as part of the City's Smart Surrey Strategy.
- A new City of Surrey Community Services Web Portal was designed to help improve access to services, including those for vulnerable women and girls.
In Their Own Words: A Surrey Vulnerable Women and Girls Research Project
When the SVWG first convened, it found very little available research on vulnerable women and girls in Surrey. The Working Group initiated a research project, funded by the Surrey Homelessness and Housing Society, to develop a better understanding of the service and housing needs of vulnerable women and girls in Surrey.The final report for the research project resulted in a wealth of input and ideas.
All together, 50 women and female youth and 12 service providers in Surrey participated in a focus group or interview from November 2014 to February 2015. The women and youth who participated in the study were either currently living on the street, had recently exited a street engaged life, or have stabilized and are moving on in their lives. The service providers were front-line staff who work with this population.
The Final Report, In Their Own Words provides an assessment of services and needs for vulnerable women and youth in Surrey. This research report is actively informing future activities and priorities of the Surrey Vulnerable Women and Girls Working Group.
Council Reports on Vulnerable Women and Girls Working Group
- Update on the Surrey Vulnerable Women & Girls Working Group, September 17, 2018
- Vulnerable Women and Girls Working Group - Update, June 15, 2015
- Plan for the Social Plan Well-Being of Surrey Residents
- Master Plan for Housing the Homeless
- Affordable Housing in Surrey
- Surrey Poverty Reduction Plan
- Urban Aboriginal Social Innovation Strategy
- SVWG Research Project: In Their Own Words
- Identifying the Issues and Supporting Change: Progress Report 2013 - 2019
- Resources and Contacts for Women in Surrey
- Opioid Dialogues with Women & Girls in Surrey
- Briefing Document: Gendered Homelessness
- Surrey Vulnerable Women & Girls Working Group Synopsis
- Surviving the Night: Report on the Night Time Needs of Vulnerable Women & Girls