Halfway house will open on West Railway Street in late fall

John Howard Society will operate a home for men who are under conditional release from prison

The John Howard Society will open a halfway house located at West Railway Street this fall.

The John Howard Society will open a halfway house located at West Railway Street this fall.

A new halfway house will open late this fall at 2411 West Railway Street in downtown Abbotsford, providing a home for men who are under conditional release from prison.

The 30-bed facility – run by the John Howard Society of the Lower Mainland – is finishing minor improvements before opening in November or December.

Tim Veresh, executive director of the society, said the facility will take in men who have been released from jail and suffer from mental health issues or potentially substance abuse problems.

Because the men will be serving conditional sentences, Veresh said that unlike recovery homes, if there is an issue with behaviour or an interaction with police, the men can be returned to prison without committing an offence.

“It’s not a recovery house. All the individuals in the house are under conditions approved by the parole board of Canada.”

He added that some men will have already completed recovery programs at Kinghaven or another facility.

The house will provide 24-hour awake support with funding from the Correctional Service of Canada. There is no time limit on how long men can stay, but Veresh said the average is about five to six months. He said the men tend to have curfews that allow them to leave around 7 a.m. and return before 11 p.m. from Sunday to Thursday, with a later deadline on Friday and Saturday. Staff must always be aware of the men’s whereabouts. Many of the men will work, volunteer, or attend school during the day.

The society currently runs supportive housing in Abbotsford for people on parole or on statutory release, and Veresh said the society identified the need for the new facility in this community.

He said they’ve met with neighbours, the Abbotsford Downtown Business Association, the police chief, the mayor and city staff to discuss the plans for the facility.

The building previously housed Sunrise Community Centre, and as the location is currently zoned for personal care use – which includes rehabilitation – the project does not have to go through a public hearing at City Hall.

Veresh said he understands community members may have concerns, but the organization successfully runs similar facilities in Vancouver and Surrey.

“There is always going to be community concern, or alarm, when a facility like this opens. But … we have a strong understanding of how to operate these facilities.”

Veresh said some neighbours have been pleased they are moving into the site, which has been vacant since July 2012, and has had issues with homelessness and break-ins. He said the goal of their facilities is to create a safer community, because “without a gradual, supported reintroduction into the community, individuals being released pose a threat.”

Veresh said they will soon announce an open house when community members can visit and learn more. Until then, Veresh said he is happy to speak with community members about their concerns and can be reached at jhsed@jhlmbc.ca.