Abbotsford Dignitarian Society president Jeff Gruban was incensed after council denied a proposal to build 40 small cabins for the homeless on a site on Valley Road. File photo

Abbotsford Dignitarian Society president Jeff Gruban was incensed after council denied a proposal to build 40 small cabins for the homeless on a site on Valley Road. File photo

‘Dignity village’ for homeless rejected by Abbotsford council

Proposal to house 40 people in small cabins in industrial area needs work, politicians say

Concerns about pedestrian safety, noise, the health of residents and a lack of support from other government agencies led council to reject a proposed “dignity village” that would have seen 40 small cabins built to house the homeless.

The Abbotsford Dignitarian Society had asked the city for a temporary-use permit to allow it to place the cabins, along with outbuildings, on a property on Valley Road.

But while councillors applauded the society’s initiative and passion, several said firm commitments would be needed from supporting agencies like BC Housing and Fraser Health for the project to win approval. The project had won the support of local service providers, including Abbotsford Community Services, Mennonite Central Committee and the Lookout Society.

The society’s president, Jeff Gruban, was incensed at the decision, telling the Abbotsford News Tuesday it was the result of a “lack of courage” by local politicians unwilling to have Abbotsford take on such a project without other government agencies.

Staff, including the city’s homelessness co-ordinator, had recommended denying the application.

In addition to lacking BC Housing and Fraser Health support, staff noted several issues with the site of the proposal, which is in an industrial area north of the Highway 11/Sumas Way intersection. There were concerns about how residents would get to and from the site, and about the long-term upkeep and safety of the units.

Coun. Les Barkman said he has toured similar sites, including one in Portland, and noted the importance of nearby services.

“If something like this is to happen, we need wraparound services,” he said.

Couns. Dave Loewen, Sandy Blue and Ross Siemens also expressed some support for the society’s goals, but said they were uneasy with the site and other gaps in the proposal.

Blue said she was “intrigued” by the model, and encouraged the society to continue its work, which could be more appealing at another site and with more buy-in from other stakeholders.

With funding from the federal government, the city is set to launch its co-ordinated intake and referral program this summer. The program hopes to provide a single referral system for services and housing for homeless men and women. Siemens said the city needs to let that proceed without going ahead with a major initiative not supported by other levels of government.

Mayor Henry Braun recused himself from the discussion and vote because he owns a property across from the Valley Road site.

The councillors present voted unanimously against the proposal.

On Tuesday, Gruban called out council for a lack of progress on the homeless issue over the last three years, and doubted the programs being rolled out this summer will significantly reduce the number of people living on the street. He said the location was ideal to minimize disturbances with the surrounding community and reachable for homeless men and women used to walking and biking around town.

“Have some bravery,” he said.

As for the future, Gruban said he personally is done working on the project, although he suggested other society members may continue working with the city.

“I’ve spent three years on this project,” he said. “I see no evidence the city has any interest in supporting this project.”

Just Posted

Justin Bond’s Bahrain 1 took a team around a year to construct. It gets its name because the Sheik of Bahrain is a major sponsor of the team. / Photo courtesy of Justin Bond.
Mission dragracer wins Atlanta race, ousts back-to-back world champion

Justin Bond goes quarter-mile in 5.738-seconds, beating champ Stevie ‘Fast’ Jackson on home turf

Former UFV Cascades wrestling coach Arjan Singh Bhullar is now the ONE heavyweight champion after defeating Brandon Vera via TKO in round two on Saturday in Singapore. (ONE Championship)
Former UFV wrestling coach wins MMA championship

Arjan Singh Bhullar captures ONE heavyweight title, first Indian origin fighter to achieve honour

Jamie and Erin O’Neill, who are renting a 107-year-old house at 45837 Knight Rd., are wanting to save it from the wrecking ball and move it when it comes time for the owners of the house to build a new house on the property. They are pictured here outside the home on Tuesday, May 11, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
Chilliwack couple wants to save 107-year-old home from demolition, asking for community support

O’Neills have less than year to find new property, raise funds to move Knight Road house

Archway Community Services is among local agencies receiving one-time grants through the Civil Forfeiture Crime Prevention and Remediation grant program. (Photo courtesy of Archway)
Nine Abbotsford projects receive $345K in civil forfeiture grants

Funds awarded to projects aimed at prevention of crime and domestic violence

Karl Eha showing off a fishing rod that was originally made in 1972. Patrick Penner photo.
Mission’s Eha Sports offering store credit for old fishing gear, plans to donate to poor Latin American children

Karl Eha recalls time as hungry kid in post-war Germany, says fishing kept him full

Daily confirmed COVID-19 cases reported to B.C. public health, seven-day rolling average in white, to May 12, 2021. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C. preparing ‘Restart 2.0’ from COVID-19 as June approaches

Daily infections fall below 500 Friday, down to 387 in hospital

The Independent Investigations Office of BC (IIO) (File Photo)
Police watchdog investigating after man found dead in Surrey following a wellness check

IIO says officers ‘reportedly spoke to a man at the home before departing’

On Friday, May 14 at Meadow Gardens Golf Club in Pitt Meadows, Michael Caan joined a very elite club of golfers who have shot under 60 (Instagram)
Crowds at English Bay were blasted with a large beam of light from an RCMP Air-1 helicopter on Friday, May 14. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Marc Grandmaison
Police enlist RCMP helicopter to disperse thousands crowded on Vancouver beach

On Friday night, police were witness to ‘several thousand people staying well into the evening’

People shop in Chinatown in Vancouver on Friday, February 5, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Vancouver community leaders call for action following 717% rise in anti-Asian hate crimes

‘The alarming rise of anti-Asian hate in Canada and south of the border shows Asians have not been fully accepted in North America,’ says Carol Lee

Sinikka Gay Elliott was reported missing on Salt Spring Island on Wednesday, May 12. (Courtesty Salt Spring RCMP)
Body of UBC professor found on Salt Spring Island, no foul play suspected

Sinikka Elliott taught sociology at the university

The first Black judge named to the BC Supreme Court, Selwyn Romilly, was handcuffed at 9:15 a.m. May 14 while walking along the seawall. (YouTube/Screen grab)
Police apologize after wrongly arresting B.C.’s first Black Supreme Court Justice

At 81 years old, the retired judge was handcuffed in public while out for a walk Friday morning

Surrey RCMP in the 4900-block of 148th Street, a short road just off of King George Boulevard, on May 15, 2021 after a male was allegedly assaulted with a “pipe-like” weapon that morning. (Photo: Shane MacKichan)
Surrey RCMP investigating after person reportedly injured with ‘pipe-like’ weapon

Police investigating incident in the 4900-block of 148th Street

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Most Read