The provincial government announced Monday that it will provide $2.4 million in capital costs, as well as annual operating costs, for a 20-unit supportive-housing development on Gladys Avenue in Abbotsford.
The project will be operated by the Abbotsford Community Services (ACS) Society and will be for men who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. Construction is expected to begin next fall.
ACS executive director Rod Santiago was overcome with emotion as he spoke about the importance of the project at Monday’s announcement at the Matsqui Centennial Auditorium.
“Today we’re sending out the message to our friends on the street that you don’t have to have your life figured out before someone decides you deserve to have a roof over your head,” he said. “You have a right to have housing first and now you can exercise that right in Abbotsford.”
The property is located on the west side of Gladys Avenue, just north of George Ferguson Way.
It received rezoning approval from city council in November to allow for low-barrier supportive housing, which permits residents to enter without being drug- and alcohol-free, and provides supportive services.
The project moved forward despite concern from area residents who spoke at a public hearing about the potential for property crime, the impact on property values, and the proximity of the site to two schools and a residential area.
The mood of Monday’s announcement, though, was full of hope.
“It’s a great morning,” Abbotsford Mayor Henry Braun.
The project, he said, “will provide those who come through their doors with not just housing but the 24/7 stability and support they need to rebuild their lives.”
B.C. Housing Minister Rich Coleman, who made the announcement, spoke of the chance to renew the province’s commitment to providing funding for supportive housing in Abbotsford, despite some hard feelings stemming from a project that was defeated on a tie council vote in February.
The province had previously pledged support for a low-barrier supportive housing project for men at 2408 Montvue Ave. across from ACS headquarters.
But some neighbouring residents opposed the site, and the Abbotsford Downtown Business Association (ADBA) objected to its location in the C7 zone, a special downtown city area that prohibits supportive-recovery use.
“Sometimes, you’ve got to stay focused on what’s important and to do that, you’ve got to put away your own frustrations,” Coleman said.
He said ACS’s willingness to again take a leading role was the key factor that allowed it to move forward again.
“Their proven combination of experience and programming skills and health staff are going to be a huge benefit to those folks who are stepping up to try and change their lives.”