Abbotsford has been shortlisted for inclusion in a program that would allow the city to receive more federal money to fight homelessness.
The city has long had its eyes on “designated community” status from the federal government. That status provides ongoing money to municipalities to address homelessness, and federal officials have previously suggested Abbotsford would likely be added to the program once contracts are re-opened in 2019.
Now that the program is set for renewal, the federal government has been accepting applications from prospective new designated communities. The feds aim to add “up to four to six communities” to the current roster.
Abbotsford was the largest city to pass the first stage of the application process, according to a federal website. It is among 16 communities that have until mid-September to submit a full proposal. The website says a final decision on successful applicants will come in the fall.
Seven of the 16 short-listed communities are located in British Columbia. In addition to Abbotsford, Chilliwack, Cowichan Valley, Penticton, Vernon, Comox Valley, and Fort St. John have been given the go-ahead to submit a final proposal.
The nine other short-listed communities are all in Ontario.
Funding for new communities will increase slowly, and those selected will have to split $1 million in the coming fiscal year, $1.9 million in 2020-21, and $3 million in 2021-2022, according to the website.
Currently, Kamloops, Kelowna, Nanaimo, Prince George, Nelson, Vancouver and Victoria are already designated communities. In 2015-16, they split a little more than $10 million.
Abbotsford, meanwhile, had access only to a smaller pool of money. It did receive money to support its co-ordinated intake and referral program, which aimed to provide one-stop services for homeless men and women and which has been integrated into the city’s ongoing efforts to address the issue. The funding has expired, however.
A homeless count in 2018 was conducted as part of the program. It found 233 homeless men, women and youth in Abbotsford, although the co-ordinators of such counts stress that figure likely misses many who are not known to those tallying people without homes.