Groundbreaking for supportive housing project

Riverside shelter to remain open until next spring after province pledges funding.

Abbotsford Community Services executive director Rod Santiago (right) laughs alongside local MLAs Darryl Plecas and Simon Gibson

Abbotsford Community Services executive director Rod Santiago (right) laughs alongside local MLAs Darryl Plecas and Simon Gibson



A groundbreaking ceremony Thursday to mark the start of construction on a new 30-unit supportive housing project on Gladys Avenue came with more good news for advocates for the homeless, as the province announced it will provide funding to keep the 40-bed temporary shelter on Riverside Road open until next spring.

Dozens gathered at the Gladys site to celebrate the start of construction on the project, which is anticipated to open next spring and will include 30 low-barrier units for men who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.

The building will be operated by Abbotsford Community Services (ACS), which will work with Fraser Health and other service providers, to provide assistance to residents.

“We have been waiting a long time for this day to happen,” said ACS executive director Rod Santiago. A previous proposal by the organization had been denied by a tie vote in council in early 2014 before the present project was approved later that year. “It’s been a tough slog but for it to actually happen is thrilling.”

“This initiative … is housing first. It means people don’t have to have all of their stuff together before they deserve a right to have a roof over their heads. It means get the roof over your head first, and once that happens, we can start addressing all those things in your life that you’re wanting to address.

The provincial government is providing $5.1 million of funding for the project, while the city provided the land and $250,000.

The province also committed to funding the Riverside shelter until next spring. The facility had originally been slated to close in the spring.

The announcement that the Riverside Road shelter would remain open until the construction on the supportive housing project was welcomed by local officials. The temporary shelter had originally been slated to close in the spring, but Mayor Henry Braun had previously expressed hope that it would remain open throughout the summer.

It was noted at Thursday’s event that more-permanent housing had been found for 28 people who had come through the shelter since its opening in December.