Abbotsford’s task force on homelessness holds first meeting

Group members say they hope to focus on getting results for homeless community

Jim Burkinshaw of the Abbotsford Christian Leader's Network listens to Mike Welte

Jim Burkinshaw of the Abbotsford Christian Leader's Network listens to Mike Welte

At the first meeting of a city task force on homelessness on Wednesday, Coun. Patricia Ross, a chair of the group, said despite the criticism that the task force is a “fluff committee” used to make the city look good, members are focused on getting results.

The task force discussed the necessity of consultation with the homeless, service providers and the public to determine what is needed in the community.

Ron Van Wyk, a director with the Mennonite Central Committee and co-ordinator of the Fraser Valley Regional Homeless Survey, agreed consultation is necessary, but said that with the results of the 2014 survey to be released in two weeks, much of the information the task force is seeking has already been collected.

“What is there to analyze?” he said. “We know what good practices can bring results.”

He suggested that the task force “leap frog” to working on those solutions.

One need mentioned by numerous task force members was low-barrier housing, like the provincially funded facility proposed by Abbotsford Community Services, which was rejected on a split council vote in February.

The three councillors and the mayor who voted against the proposal had expressed hope that BC Housing would keep the roughly $17 million offered for the project in Abbotsford.

Darin Froese, a Lower Mainland director with BC Housing, said he wanted to clarify that his presence on the task force was not an indication that the ACS funding was still available to this city.

Wednesday’s meeting was intended to set a work path for the task force, which is expected to have a strategy designed by September.

The group discussed the necessity of supporting “on-the-ground” resources, and called for service providers and members of the homeless community to be present at the next meeting, which will be in May.