The newest Homelessness Action Plan (HAP) for Abbotsford aims to strengthen community services and programs, advocate for stronger senior-government support and develop new strategies.
The plan was adopted Monday (July 11) by city council.
Mike Sikora, the city’s homelessness and community development specialist, told council that the action plan provides “a roadmap” for what the city can do to manage and address the issue of homelessness.
The first plan was initiated in 2014 by the city’s task force on homelessness. The newest/updated plan began in the fall of 2021.
An advisory committee was formed, community engagement events were held, and staff were hired to work on the project.
Development of the HAP included gathering data on homelessness and current services, as well as interviewing stakeholders and people with lived experience of homelessness.
“The vision of this plan … is that Abbotsford is a city where everyone has a home,” said Matt Thomson, community housing lead at Urban Matters CCC, who worked with the city to develop the plan.
The HAP provides five main goals, each with “a range of immediate and long-terms actions that will be led or supported by the city,” Thomson said.
Among the issues addressed is to identify land in Abbotsford that could be used for affordable housing.
“One of the things we consistently heard throughout our engagement is that land remains an issue for the development of new forms of housing right across the affordable-housing continuum, as well as services,” Thomson said.
One of the action steps in the plan is for the city to work with partners – such as the faith community – to identify properties and locations not owned by the city that might be suitable for housing and services.
Another goal of the plan is to strengthen policies and programs to better meet the needs of people experiencing homelessness.
This includes looking at how city-owned facilities could provide basic needs such as washrooms and daytime warming programs.
Another step is for the city to develop a landlord liaison program that supports access to market rental housing for those in need.
The HAP also addresses the need for better collaboration among service providers and to advocate for funding from senior levels of government to fill gaps in services, including mental health support for front-line staff.
City councillors applauded the plan, saying it will help strengthen the services and support already in place.
“A lot of the goals that the federal government has are laudable, but the harsh reality is to keep people housed and to deal with the complexities is very unique for many communities, and Abbotsford is no different. The challenges are huge,” said Ross Siemens.
The HAP will be reviewed annually and will be fully updated in five to seven years, according to a report to council.
The full HAP can be viewed at abbotsford.ca (click on “community and events” and then “housing and homelessness).