Surrey council candidate Roslyn Cassells calls for rent bank and outreach teams to help address the city's housing crisis

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      Canada's first elected Green politician is attempting a political comeback in Surrey 16 years after her one and only term ended with the Vancouver park board.

      Roslyn Cassells is running as a council candidate for GreenVote on a platform calling for dramatic action to address homelessness and innovative animal-rights policies.

      At the core of her agenda is governing "according to global green principles of social and ecological justice".

      This includes a pledge to apply triple-bottom-line accounting giving equal consideration to society, ecology, and the economy in planning decisions regarding city projects, programs, services, and departments.

      Among her housing planks is the establishment of a Surrey rent bank, which would provide grants to residents to help them avoid losing their homes.

      She's also promising a housing and outreach team to help people find permanent housing, and ensuring that these team members assist residents in meeting basic needs for food, clothing, transportation, health care, employment, education, childcare, and household necessities.

      This would come "either by direct provision of aid, if necessary", or through referrals to community agencies or services.

      "The daily outcome for our city housing and homelessness team is this: everyone safely housed, fed, clothed, and cared for every day," Cassells states in her platform.

      She wants city buildings opened on a 24-hour basis to provide shelter and warmth for homeless people. 

      But this would be much more than simply a warming centre. There would be food service, shower facilities, laundry, free clothing, health care, supplies such as knapsacks, supervised and safe drug-use rooms, and harm-reduction materials.

      "Companion animals should be welcomed and their needs provided for," her platform states.

      Cassells also declares that the city's rental-housing stock must be protected "at all costs".

      "The city must incentivize landlords to maintain their existing rental stocks and de-incentivize any redevelopments until such time as the vacancy rate increases to a point where people can find safe affordable housing, and the provincial government increases disability and assistance rates to reflect reality," she states.

      The housing platform includes a pledge that she'll keep an open mind toward proposals for "tiny homes, modular housing, laneway housing, secondary suites, projects such as Dignity Village, and community collective solutions in whatever form they must take to keep people as safe as possible".

      Dignity Village is a membership-based democratically governed camp in northeast Portland where 60 people stay per night. It provides a safe place with basic sanitation services for homeless people.

      In addition, Cassells wants free spaying and neutering services for Surrey residents with pets who can't afford to pay for this. 

      "The situation is so bad in Surrey groups from outside the jurisdiction are coming in and spending their scant donations to spay and neuter our Surrey homeless cats, feral cats, and pets of low-income and homeless folks," she stated. "For that reason I propose the funding be extended to people/no kill animal rescue groups that are working with animals resident in Surrey, even if the volunteers hail from outside Surrey, which most of them do."

      Her environmental promises include a "no net loss of greenspace policy".

      "The concept of green space is not simply hectare for hectare, but considering ecological values of biodiversity, protection of endangered or uncommon species and ecological communities, the fragmentation of habitats, with the goal of maintaining and improving our local ecologies, reconnecting fragmented habitats, re-establishing native species and ecologies, and supporting and increasing biodiversity."  

      Earlier this year, Cassells took the City of Surrey to B.C. Supreme Court in a fight to stop a road from being built in Hawthorne Park.

      She's claimed that this project threatens 17 endangered species. The park includes a 2.6-kilometre nature trail walk.

      Roslyn Cassells sought judicial review of Surrey council's decision to build a road in part of Hawthorne Park.
      City of Surrey

      Cassells has also been a vocal advocate for peafowl in the Sullivan Heights community. 

      In June, council voted unanimously to remove about 100 of them after complaints from local residents.

      She's claimed that the media have sensationalized the issue when those most in danger are the birds, not human beings. 

      "Other than one person who slipped on the poop, and we are sorry for him, there have been no genuine safety issues, except to the peafowl themselves," Cassells stated in a news release in the summer. "The birds are often run over by speeding motorists and the city has refused to put in speed bumps to deal with the speedsters in an increasingly populous neighbourhood."