The shelter on Riverside Road.

Homeless shelter opens, four men stay on first night

Temporary winter facility to operate until May 1

Just over three weeks ago, it was an empty lot. Now, the temporary homeless shelter on Riverside Road is up and running, with 40 beds for people to sleep, and meal service during the day.

“There were some challenging times in getting this facility to where it is now,” said Shayne Williams, executive director of Lookout Emergency Aid Society.

Last night, four men stayed overnight at the shelter. At 9:30 this morning, two of them were still sleeping — unlike at the Salvation Army, clients at Riverside can sleep as late as they like.

“It’s wonderful,” said Kim Willis, a shelter resource worker. “They seem to be happy to be coming.”

Lookout, a non-profit that also operates five shelters throughout the Lower Mainland, is running the facility with a $450,000 grant from BC Housing. The building costs of $750,000 were provided by the City of Abbotsford through gas taxes earmarked for community initiatives.

The shelter itself was built, or rather assembled, at top speed. It’s made out of six construction trailers attached side by side, with areas for sleeping, eating, socializing, and connecting with community support.

Those who stay at the shelter won’t have to trek through the cold in order to sign up for housing assistance, get a medical checkup, or connect with many other agencies providing aid to homeless people. Instead, representatives from Fraser Health, Abbotsford Community Services and other groups will host office hours right at the shelter, a “community hub” strategy Williams said is precedent-setting.

Bunk bed frames won’t be delivered until next month, so for now the mattresses are on the floor. The facility’s kitchen isn’t quite ready either, so the Salvation Army is cooking three meals a day for shelter residents and driving them over.

The shelter will operate until the end of April, and then is expected to re-open for the winter of 2016-17. Because it isn’t a permanent facility, the city wasn’t required to go through the time-consuming and costly process of community consultation. Temporary shelters are allowed in all types of zoning, and the Riverside lot is city-owned. City staff say they looked into using an unoccupied existing building for the facility, but none worked out.

By April, Lookout and the city hope many of those staying at the building will be able to find their way to more stable housing. It’s likely many will, as Williams said Lookout’s other shelters usually help about half their clients get off the streets. While there won’t be any more overnight stays allowed after May 1, the city’s housing team hopes to continue to offer related services at the site.

By 2017, a permanent 30-bed supportive-housing building for men who are homeless or at risk of homelessness will open on Gladys Avenue, and this will provide another option for clients.

As a “low-barrier” shelter, people won’t have to be clean and sober to stay at Riverside, though they won’t be able to drink or use drugs inside as it is with all provincially funded beds, Williams notes. Lookout staff hope the facility will soon be able to administer medication on-site, through a partnership with Fraser Health, although this service isn’t yet offered.

Just Posted

FULL HOUSE: Patients feel the effects, with Abbotsford hospital at 118% capacity

Patients decry lack of privacy and sleep in B.C.’s most-crowded major hospitals

End drug prohibition to curb overdose crisis: Abbotsford advocate

Doug Smith with Drug War Survivors says removing criminal aspect would curb the crisis

Man sentenced for smuggling drugs and shooting at border guards

Nathan Hall was arrested in Abbotsford in 2013 after day-long manhunt

Developers to unveil plan to transform Aldergrove mall into new town centre

Community to find out new Aldergrove Town Centre plan for dormant 10-acre lot in heart of downtown.

Tensions mount over Abbotsford homeless camp removals amid cold snap

City calls camp removals a safety issue, advocates say actions risk health and safety of homeless

Indigenous leaders, politicians say Trans Mountain report flawed

The National Energy Board has endorsed an expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline a second time

Legislation to protect B.C. farmland comes into effect

Regulations enhance food security, encourage long-term farming

Have you heard the legend of Shuswaggi, the Shuswap Lake monster?

Witness accounts as old as 1904, and as recent as 2018, place a creature in the lake’s depths

UPDATE: B.C. ticket holder winner of $25.9-million Lotto Max jackpot

Next draw set for Mar. 1 with an estimated jackpot of $10 million

B.C.-based ‘Team Tardi’ brings home gold in junior curling worlds

In a 9-4 victory over Switzerland, a Langley-based curling team earned its 2nd straight world title

People gather for funeral of seven children killed in fast-moving Halifax fire

Traditional portion of the service will be followed by words from community members

B.C. weavers to help Alaska Native project honouring survivors of violence

Dozens of Chilkat and Ravenstail weavers from all over North America will be weaving 5-inch-by-5-inch squares

B.C. skip Sarah Wark and team eliminated at Scotties Tournament of Hearts

Nontheless pretty impressive stuff from the 24th-ranked team in the country

Twilight Drive-In announces open season start date

Opening weekend will showcase a double feature with Aquaman at 7:15 p.m. and Glass at 9:50 p.m.

Most Read