Some of Abbotsford’s homeless residents might soon have a drier place to sleep thanks to the combined efforts of the 5 and 2 Ministries and the Fraser Valley Atheists, Skeptics and Humanists group (FVASH).
Ward Draper of 5 and 2 and Jeff Gruban of FVASH came together to build a pilot project of a mobile sleeping unit for the homeless.
The prototype is currently being used by a man named Jesse and Draper said “he loves it,” adding that their goal is to build more soon.
Draper said the shelters will cost about $150 to $200 to build and are made out of plywood with industrial strength wheels and castors. He said the structures – which are about two metres long, one metre wide, and over a metre at the centre – are also covered in a clear sealant to stop water from leaking in.
He said the prototype has a coffee can mounted in order to hold a candle, which keeps a fire contained and is much safer than candles kept in tents.
Draper said the concept is superior to tents, as not only does it increase safety, it helps to keep people warm and therefore healthier.
“We’re going to be saving a lot of people from getting very sick with bronchitis, pneumonia, lung infections and cold and flus.”
Draper said he and Gruban hope to roll out about 40 units in the next couple months, getting people off the ground and out of wet tents and into a place that is dry and warm.
He said they will start to consult with people on the streets to find out how the project will work best and what changes to the structure may need to be made. Draper said the shelters aren’t welded together, so should a problem arise, the roof could easily be pushed off.
Draper had previously raised the idea of creating a sanctioned camp such as Portland’s Dignity Village, and said this latest project is a step towards that goal. He said that although technically such structures can’t be built on public land, because they fulfill a need to house the homeless, Draper said it pushes the issue forward.
“This is a step towards a more permanent solution.”
Mayor Bruce Banman said it is good to see that community members are “thinking outside the box” to find solutions for issues of homelessness, but said the community must be careful of jumping at any idea.
Banman said mobile shelters are not a long-term solution to homelessness and “we have to be careful we aren’t putting people in harm’s way.”
He said the shelters must be safe from risks like fires, and suggested that fire services and the city’s social advisory committee assess the idea and the structures, making safety the top priority.