The City of Abbotsford expects to share the outcomes and lessons learned from the homeless referral pilot program kicked off in 2017 at an upcoming regional forum.
The city is hosting its second regional housing and homelessness forum on Feb. 21 at the University of the Fraser Valley’s Evered Hall.
The forum is expected to attract government representatives from neighbouring communities, stakeholders and community members. Spokesperson Alex Mitchell said the city expects to share its learnings from the co-ordinated intake and referral (CIR) program, along with co-ordinating with regional counterparts on addressing housing and homelessness and highlighting current work on housing and opioid response.
The forum is part of the requirements from the federal government in its funding of the CIR pilot project, which launched in September 2017 and is scheduled to close on March 31.
Mayor Henry Braun says the forum will be a good venue to show off some of the results of the project.
“We are evaluating people for the very first time. Some have been homeless for 30 years and they’ve never had an assessment of what their needs are. Once that happens, we can now channel them into the various ministries that they need. It’s kind of like one-stop shopping,” Braun said.
As of the end of last year, the program has received 425 requests for service, according to a recent update to the city’s homelessness action advisory committee.
Braun added that, to achieve a more welcoming housing market, there needs to be a major increase in construction in the region.
“The only way the housing is going to decrease is if the supply exceeded the demand. Right now, that’s not happening,” Braun said, adding that one of the best ways to achieve that is through federal or provincial programming to incentivize construction.
“I worry a little when governments are going to do the building. We should figure out a way to incentivize the private sector and let them go build it, because governments are probably not going to build their way out of this problem.”
The forum opens with check-in and mingling at 8:30 a.m. on Thursday, Feb. 21 and starts in earnest at 9 a.m. with opening remarks. After that, the city is expected to report on the CIR program and Abbotsford’s homelessness prevention and response system, followed by a joint report on infrastructure and needs in the Lower Mainland by the Fraser Valley Regional District and Metro Vancouver.
Keynote speaker is Alina Turner, a leading Canadian researcher on urban poverty, housing and homelessness, who is expected to call “for an integrated systems planning approach across systems of care.”
After that, a panel will be held involving Abbotsford, Chilliwack and Mission on issues of housing and opioid response and collaborative approaches to those issues.
The forum will close with a “world café dialogue,” described as “applying the learnings and identifying key needs, next steps and regional mobilization.”