Surrey WRAP program looks out for at-risk kids

Surrey WRAP program looks out for at-risk kids

The program is seeking $10,000 from The Vancouver Sun’s Adopt-A-School campaign as WRAP doesn’t have discretionary funds to help with emergencies.

On Dec. 1, Jon Ross’ plate was full: a family of four had just been evicted — two teenagers, a 10-year-old, and a single mother.

“The kids were making too much noise. Now they’re homeless.”

Ross is a case manager with Surrey school district’s WRAP program, which helps the most vulnerable, at-risk youth in the city.

And here was a fractured family being dispersed to live among whoever would take them in.

“She’s a single mum from Iraq, doesn’t speak English, has no job, and won’t get a reference from the landlord. So no one’s going to rent her a place here.

“She’s going to Toronto. There’s a big Iraqi-Christian community there. That’s her plan.

“We’re just helping put their stuff in storage.”

Without this help, all the family’s possessions would have been dumped and left on the street.

The program is seeking $10,000 from The Vancouver Sun’s Adopt-A-School campaign as WRAP doesn’t have discretionary funds to help with emergencies such as this.

The money allows WRAP to buy food and clothes for youth, some of whom might be homeless and at risk of being criminally exploited without such help.

Two mothers of families being helped by WRAP spoke about the assistance. Neither will be identified.

The first has a 14-year-old son who suffers from attention deficit disorder and oppositional defiant disorder. He refuses to go to school.

Home life is chaotic. She is on disability and they are living on the top floor of a dilapidated house with his mother’s two former spouses — one the boy’s father, both addicts also on disability who share the rent, as well as the boy’s girlfriend who is supposed to be living in a group home.

Michael Sosnowsky, the boy’s case worker, provides grocery cards when there is no food in the house.

“He helps us survive until pay day,” said the mother.

The boy had no bedroom door or usable furniture and was sleeping in the living room, so Sosnowsky took him to IKEA to furnish his bedroom.

It helped Sosnowsky deepen his connection with the boy as he wants him to return to school. If not, he will enrol him in a pre-employment program so he can find a job.

He feels the boy has been let down by various government services.

“It’s been lack of follow-up or lack of patience. But with WRAP, we won’t give up on him.”

His colleague Mark De La Cruz is as dogged with a 15-year-old who is in danger of being drawn into gang life.

“He’s a great kid, but he’s struggling. I’ve been with him since Grade 6. Now he’s made new friends and left home. Are we concerned? Yeah.”

He has been charged with assault and theft, and police have seized his phone.

He is the eldest of three children living in a $1,500-a-month basement suite. The single mother is clearly worn out trying to provide for them on a low-paying cashier’s job in a restaurant.

That morning she was up at 2:30 a.m. riding buses for 90 minutes to get to work for an early shift.

If she has trouble stretching her wages to buy food, De La Cruz helps.

“He gives me vouchers for Superstore now and again.”

The help has included providing clothes for the children, haircuts, and buying the mother a bed because she was sleeping on the floor in the living room, and it was obvious that for the good of her children she couldn’t go on like this.

“She’s a strong lady and she is keeping her family together, but she needs her rest,” said De La Cruz.

Meanwhile, he is attempting to stay in touch with the boy.

“We want him back to school, but right now he’s just doing what he wants and we are trying our best to keep him out of trouble.”



By Gerry Bellett (

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