The Lonzo Road homeless encampment in Abbotsford will be dismantled and a new 50-bed temporary shelter will be built on the site.
The announcement was made Tuesday morning (June 13) at a press conference at Abbotsford city hall with B.C. Housing Minister Ravi Kahlon, Mayor Ross Siemens, and Abbotsford-Mission MLA Pam Alexis.
People living in the encampment have been notified they must vacate the site by June 26 to allow the temporary $4 million shelter to be built.
“What’s been clear to us is that the situation cannot continue as it currently is. Encampments offer a sense of community for some people, but they’re not safe or sustainable forms of long-term shelter, and create significant risks for people’s well-being,” he said.
Kahlon said there are ongoing health, fire and safety issues at the location.
He said there are currently about 15 people on the site – the lowest since 2020, when there were more than 100 people. He said those being moved will be offered indoor living space, either in existing shelters or through rent supplements.
Temporary storage will be provided for their belongings.
Kahlon said BC Housing staff, outreach workers and non-profit service providers will be on site to support people as they leave the site.
He said there are approximately 25 vehicles at the encampment, and any left behind will be removed once all the residents have vacated the property.
The camp, located in east Abbotsford off Sumas Way just north of Highway 1, is on land owned by the Ministry of Transportation and was originally intended as a park-and-ride location.
The Abbotsford Police Department has labelled the area as the city’s “most violent homeless camp,” and Abbotsford Fire Rescue Service has said it will no longer attend emergencies there without police accompaniment.
Construction on the new shelter is expected to begin immediately after the Lonzo Road camp is cleared out and is anticipated to be complete in late fall. It is expected to remain in place for about 18 months while a permanent location is found.
Kahlon said it will offer 24-hour support services, meals, and health and wellness supports.
It will be operated by the Lookout Housing and Health Society, which currently runs the nearby 40-bed Riverside shelter. That shelter will be turned into a permanent supportive-housing facility.
Siemens said the announcement is an “important first step in bringing additional support to the most vulnerable members of our community.”
“The Lonzo park-and-ride has had its fair share of challenges, including multiple overdoses, fires, medical emergencies, criminal activity and violence but, most importantly, people preying on the most vulnerable – and these challenges have increased exponentially over the last couple of months,” he said.
” … These issues transcend politics. They transcend our ideology and our personal opinions. These are human souls that deserve dignity and respect.”
Alexis said the new shelter will always have support staff on hand, “making sure people staying at the shelter receive the vital services they need in a safe environment.”
“When vulnerable people have good housing, we know that this results in safer and healthier communities overall for everyone,” she said.
Kahlon also announced that the province will partner with the city to implement the new Homeless Encampment Action Response Teams (HEART) program.
He said HEART is designed to rapidly respond to encampments to better support people who are sheltering outdoors to move inside.
The program is set to begin in the fall.