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

Dash-cam video in trial of accused cop killer shows man with a gun

Footage is shown at trial of Oscar Arfmann, charged with killing Const. John Davidson of Abbotsford

Fraser Valley developer offering to build barn owl nesting boxes for free

Gore Brothers says anyone with a suitable building can help the threatened raptor

Langley’s oldest and last strip bar shuts its doors

The Alder Inn, in operation since 1957, has reportedly been purchased

Fraser Valley Bandits winless streak hits eight

CEBL club still looking for first-ever franchise victory

Abbotsford posts $29 million cash surplus in 2018

Reserves continue to grow, but finance chief warns more will be needed

PHOTOS: Elusive ‘ghost whale’ surfaces near Campbell River

Ecotourism operator captures images of the rare white orca

Victoria mom describes finding son ‘gone’ on first day of coroners inquest into overdose death

Resulting recommendations could change handling of youth records amidst the overdose crisis

Suicide confirmed in case of B.C. father who’d been missing for months

2018 disappearance sparked massive search for Ben Kilmer

Eight U.S. senators write to John Horgan over B.C. mining pollution

The dispute stems from Teck Resources’ coal mines in B.C.’s Elk Valley

Dinosaur statues from defunct Dinotown theme park stolen in Chilliwack

The dinosaur figures once graced the theme park but were destined for Chilliwack fundraiser

Threats charge against Surrey’s Jaspal Atwal stayed

Atwal, 64, was at centre of controversy in 2018 over his attendance at prime minister’s reception in India

Anti-vaxxer Robert F. Kennedy Jr. to speak in Surrey

He’s keynote speaker at Surrey Environment and Business Awards luncheon by Surrey Board of Trade Sept. 17

Otters devour 150 trout at Kootenay hatchery

The hatchery has lost close to 150 fish in the past several months

Update: Show of support after pride flag was taken down by Township of Langley

Township statement said flag was removed due to “confusion” about whether it was on private property

Most Read