The doors will be closing early at an Abbotsford drop-in centre that offers food and other services to unhoused people.
The Cabin opened in the midst of a terribly wet and cold November, in the small building on Delair Road that used to be home to Tourism Abbotsford. The funding was provided by the Union of B.C. Municipalities (UBCM), via an application from city council, for the operation of the shelter space by Archway Community Services.
Right away, it became a welcome gathering hub for those seeking shelter from the storm — literally and figuratively. The tiny space is like a living room where people can dry out their clothes, grab a bite to eat or drink, and connect with workers who can suggest services. Quite often, there has been a mobile medical clinic outside offering advice and care to those who needed it.
It’s a place that’s been providing important connections to those who need it most in Abbotsford. They have weekly bingo nights and barbecues. They’ve helped people find housing.
But that’s all coming to an end on Sept. 30, two months shy of their original plan to be open for a year. And, accordingly, two months of funding from the Strengthening Communities Services Grant is being sent back to UBCM.
Archway made the announcement to their clients and partners, expressing their disappointment in the closure. But to understand why they’re closing, it’s imperative to understand how they opened.
“We were notified that our funding application had been approved at the end of July 2021 and our service agreement covered Aug. 1, 2021 to July 31, 2022,” said Megan Capp, Archway’s manager of social justice, seniors and housing.
That did not give them much time to get things in place, but they had staffing and other logistics sorted for a September startup. They just needed a suitable space.
“We had a lot of difficulty finding a landlord that would rent to us, or, where we found willing landlords, the zoning was prohibitive, which is why we didn’t open until November,” Capp said. “We opened a bit early to accommodate people during the flooding.”
The opening of the centre initially upset a few of the neighbours, but The Cabin has become a welcome addition to the area with the support of surrounding businesses, including Tim Hortons and Starbucks.
With the clock running out on the original year-long funding agreement, Archway went back to council to ask for an extension to run The Cabin until the end of November.
But council turned down their request, choosing instead to extend the original July 31 date to Sept. 30.
Their decision was “to avoid potentially closing services in cold weather and to allow Archway to have an opportunity to find alternate funding sources,” a spokesperson for the city told The News.
But there is no alternative funding — The Cabin was a project aimed at UBCM funding options.
What’s more, Capp said, UBCM had an option to apply for more funding past that first year. Archway can’t apply on its own, without city approval.
“Whether the closing happened in September or November of this year of funding,” Capp said, “we’re concerned that the closing leaves very few alternatives for people living on the street.”
But Archway has many services and partnerships, and will continue to support the community.
“Working together on the project brought the organizations working with the homeless population closer and we’ll continue collaborating going forward,” Capp added. “It was a transformative experience for all those involved. It built empathy among service providers and it empowered the street community as they were invested and involved in this project from the ground up.”
Archway Community Services was the lead agency and worked with 5 and 2 Ministries, Impact, Drug Wars Survivors, CEDAR Outreach and the Abbotsford Restorative Justice and Advocacy Association (ARJAA).
“It can be a real place of refuge for people for whom there is no peace,” added Jesse Wegenast, a pastor and Executive Director of 5 and 2 Ministries.
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