Neighbours give mixed reaction to homeless shelter

Riverside Road camp causes concern for some area residents

  • Dec. 2, 2015 10:00 a.m.
Mayor Henry Braun announces the new 40-bed temporary shelter on Riverside Road.

Mayor Henry Braun announces the new 40-bed temporary shelter on Riverside Road.

Abbotsford’s decision to open a 40-bed temporary winter shelter on Riverside Road near the Highway 1 overpass was praised by homeless activists, but some nearby residents aren’t happy with the decision.

Stephanie, who lives a short walk away, says she’s afraid the shelter will attract drug users and cause safety concerns for her ground-floor townhouse.

She said there’s been an attempted home invasion in her complex, and thefts from porches are common.

“I’m a single woman who lives on the first floor. This event has given me anxiety and symptoms of PTSD,” she said.

Notifications about the shelter, which was announced on Nov. 26, were sent two days earlier to residents of the house across the street and to offices of the two adjacent railways.

The owner of the residential property across the street said he’s “not terribly concerned” about the shelter, so long as it’s truly temporary and doesn’t stay beyond the two planned winters. He didn’t want to disclose his surname, but said he wasn’t informed by the city prior to the shelter announcement, and hasn’t yet heard anything about it from his tenant. As the land is designated as industrial under the Official Community Plan, he doesn’t plan to keep the property as a residential rental for the long term.

Mayor Henry Braun said consultation with neighbours wasn’t required before starting the project, as temporary shelter is allowed in any zoning category. The $750,000 the city plans to contribute to the project’s budget isn’t coming from property taxes, but from Abbotsford’s share of the gas tax fund, Braun added.

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