Rod Santiago

Rod Santiago

20 unit housing development for homeless men proposed

Abbotsford Community Services want to create building in downtown area

Abbotsford could soon be home to a new three-storey, 20 unit housing facility to help homeless men.

That’s the project being proposed by Abbotsford Community Services (ACS).

Rod Santiago, executive director of ACS told a meeting of the Abbotsford Social Development Advisory Board (ASDAC) on Wednesday that his organization has been working on the plan with BC Housing for about two years.

“What we are trying to provide here is one solution. It’s not going to solve everything, it’s not going to solve the majority of things, but it will be one step,” said Santiago

The proposed facility would be located at 2408 Montvue Ave., just behind the ACS parking lot.

“The concept is first floor of programs and services and then two floors, 10 units each, of affordable housing for single men who are homeless, or one pay cheque away from being homeless.”

Santiago said the facility would be “low barrier,” meaning drug users and people with alcohol problems will not be turned away.

“The concept behind it is you don’t have to be clean, in order to get clean.”

The facility is not short-term housing, rather transitional housing for one to two years. That will allow residents to address issues, like addiction, mental illness or life skills, to the point that they can live somewhere permanently.

“It will be a housing first model, believing in the principle that until you have a roof over your head, it’s really hard to work on all the other stuff.”

ACS has begun talking with groups that have already created similar housing units as well as to the local community to discuss fears or concerns.

The project will be supportive housing and each individual will have a plan created to help them improve their lives. The goal is to secure permanent housing.

A public information session is tentatively scheduled for July 10 at ACS, but the date and time has not yet been confirmed.

Santiago has already met with representatives of the Abbotsford Downtown Business Association (ADBA) to discuss the project that would be located adjacent to the downtown core.

Ross Siemens, a member of ASDAC and a business owner in downtown Abbotsford said the association is split on the proposal.

The rezoning is going to be the big hurdle. The business association has worked very hard to fight against becoming the downtown east side and we’ve made a lot of progress,” said Siemens.

He said the association has some “realistic concerns” and the project will be better if those issues can be worked out.

This has to be a community project, it cannot be us against them.”

There is a real concern, he said, that the facility could attract more homeless people downtown.

Santiago said the homeless issues are already here.

It’s not as though if we don’t do anything about it, it’s going to go away,” he said adding he respects the ADBA concerns, but feels the two groups can work together to solve them.

Santiago said the capital budget for the project ranges between $4.2 and $4.6 million with an additional $215,000 per year needed for operating funds. He told the committee that  ACS will be financing the project themselves.

However, operational costs will he offset by the province.

Part of BC Housing’s commitment is operational funding.”