Homeless obeying new parks bylaw

Rules allow overnight camping but require shelters to be removed during the day.

Homeless men and women are largely abiding by the new parks bylaw

Homeless men and women are largely abiding by the new parks bylaw

Abbotsford’s homeless population is generally abiding by the city’s new bylaw that allows camping in parks but requires tents or shelters to be removed during the day, according to a report to a city committee last week.

The city’s homelessness action advisory committee heard last week that homeless men and women are entering and leaving city parks as per a bylaw restricting camping to between 7 p.m. and 9 a.m. created after a Supreme Court justice ruled last year the city’s previous parks bylaw was unconstitutional. Although that’s creating some challenges among outreach workers in counting the number of homeless needing help, the Salvation Army’s Nate McCready told The News outreach workers are still reaching those who need support.

The committee heard that both the Salvation Army and the Riverside Road shelter remain full to capacity, although the past winter saw fewer people accessing the Sally Ann’s extreme weather shelter. The shelter’s occupancy rate was 63 per cent over the winter, down from 85 to 90 per cent in previous years.

McCready attributed that drop to the creation of the Riverside Road shelter. Originally a temporary winter shelter, the facility will now stay open until the Gladys Avenue supportive housing building opens next spring.

The report to the committee also suggests many of those on the street are open to help, with four in five accepting the offer of case planning. The Salvation Army reported that housing had been found for nearly half of all their outreach team’s clients, while the Lookout Society has helped 31 people access housing.

However, keeping those people housed remains a struggle, with outreach workers connecting people with shelter, but few supports in place to help newly housed men and women keep their homes.

“This noted gap seems to partially exacerbate the ongoing cycling in and out of homelessness or precarious housing conditions for many of Abbotsford’s residents who are experiencing homelessness,” the report notes.