Surrey is breaking ground on a new housing and clinical centre to help those struggling with addictions and homelessness, a project that a local businessman knows all too well could mean the difference between hope and despair.

It's the first of its kind in Surrey, and comes not a moment too soon for people like award-winning businessman Graham Newberry. The realtor knows first-hand how addiction treatment can a life; he went into a recovery centre for help with his addictions four years ago and was able to turn his life around.

"I went down to homelessness, incarceration, stripped of my licence to sell real estate," he said. "I want to let others know, that you know what, people that get caught up in addiction are good people that made some bad choices."

A partnership among the City of Surrey, the Fraser Health Authority and the B.C. government will provide funding for the new centre, which will cost upwards of $20 million.

The Quibble Creek Health and Phoenix Transition Housing Centre will contain 52 supportive housing units and 15 beds for short-term transitional recovery.

The Fraser Health Recovery and Assessment Centre unit will also provide 25 drop-in beds for men and women who require 24-hour primary care related to substance use and mental health issues.

"This is supportive housing taken to a new level and it will make a real difference for people in our community, helping them to overcome serious challenges and begin their path to recovery,' said Dave Hayer, MLA for Surrey-Tynehead.

A team of health-care professionals will be at-hand, including physicians, psychiatrists, nurses, clinical counselors and social workers.

The transitional recovery centre will serve clients 16-years-old and up, with special rooms set aside for youth or special cases. The clinic will be open to both youth and adults as needed by appointment or drop-in basis, Fraser Health spokesman Roy Thorpe-Dorward said.

The latest Metro Vancouver homeless count indicates that Surrey has the largest number of unsheltered residents at 251, well above Vancouver's 135.

The number of homeless in Surrey is down 25 per cent from the last count in 2008, however, and there are two additional projects planned over the next few years.

Surrey Mayor Dianne Watts said, "Since 2009, we've taken over 350 people off the street in Surrey and found them permanent housing, thanks to our strong partnerships with the province and community organizations."

Construction is expected to be complete by spring 2012.

With files from CTV British Columbia's Julia Foy.