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Surrey students use $30K city grant to promote dignity for the unhoused

Project%20Dignity.JPGSurrey students from across the district will be exploring new ways to address the stigma surrounding homelessness, thanks to a $30K grant from the City of Surrey.

The funding is part of the city’s Dignity Project, an initiative designed to encourage youth to get involved with  disrupting biases and promoting dignity for individuals experiencing homelessness and  economic hardship. The grant will go toward student research, outreach and workshopping over the next few months. 

The Dignity Project was made possible by funds obtained through the Safe Restart Agreement and administered by UBCM that have supported six pandemic response programs in Surrey since 2021.

The initiative will be headed by L.A. Matheson Secondary teacher Annie Ohana and students in her Mustang Justice program, which will coordinate efforts, funding and activities to explore the unique challenges facing residents in various areas of the city.

“It’s one thing to do food drives or warm clothing and blanket drives, but those don’t really speak to the root causes of poverty,” said Ohana. “With the Dignity Project, we’re looking to dive deeper into the issues and explore what we can do to humanize those affected by economic insecurity and how to get students informed and engaged with that.”

This month, participating schools and student groups will begin working on their months-long initiatives to discover what the homelessness and economic situations look like in their neighbourhoods.

“So some areas may be more affected by things like NIMBYism, or have specific groups of people affected who are different from other areas in the city,” she explained. “What we want to do is encourage students to really dig into their areas because Surrey is such a large city that you can’t just apply single solutions for the entire region.”

Following their research phase, students will be tasked with developing both short- and long-term solutions to help address their area’s unique issues, explore outreach opportunities and create presentations detailing what they’ve learned.

“We’re also hoping to connect with the various community groups already doing great work in these areas, to see how their work could be supported and supplemented – and identify any gaps that they may not be able to address,” added Ohana.

With five secondary schools already on board, Ohana is in the process of recruiting more sites with the hope of reaching all corners of the city. The student work will culminate in a district-wide youth conference in June, where participating schools and groups will present their findings and recommendations to representatives from the City of Surrey.

“Our youth is the future of our society, so to have them involved and already thinking about issues like this will get us to a better place and I’m hopeful that we’ll have a brighter future because of it,” said Ohana.

To learn more about the Dignity Project, click here. Any Surrey schools interested in participating or seeking more information can email

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