Two new supportive housing projects in Abbotsford announced Tuesday morning could be ready to welcome new residents in just a few months.
The two modular buildings will provide new homes, along with 24/7 support services, to more than 80 homeless men and women.
One building with 44 units will be located at the site of the Riverside Road shelter – which will remain – south of Highway 1. It will be operated by the Lookout Housing and Health Society, which runs the shelter. The province says those shelter clients who are able to live more independently will be able to move into units in the new building, which will include their own bathrooms.
The other project, on Livingstone Avenue, will feature 39 homes for women who are homeless.
It will be operated by the Elizabeth Fry Society, which already manages 27 units for women and children on the same property, and which rezoned the site a decade ago with an eye for such a project.
The province is kicking in about $12 million of funding for the two buildings, which are part of a goal to build 2,000 such housing units across the province.
The city expects to receive development applications soon, Mayor Henry Braun said. Braun said he hopes to see construction begin this summer with the facilities up and running by the winter. Because the properties are already appropriately zoned, no public hearing is required.
Lookout executive director Shayne Williams says recent housing projects are starting to change how homeless men and women look at their situations.
“I’m starting to notice a glimmer of hope that was missing previously, a glimmer of opportunity where they think ‘maybe I can get housed,’ ” he said. New homes, he said, “are really turning the tide.”
Shawn Bayes, the executive director of the Elizabeth Fry Society, said the new Livingstone building will allow women to “plan for their long-term lives and address the things they need to.”
In addition to supports like employment and life skills training, and for health and wellness issues, the new building will also provide space for mothers who are homeless to visit and connect with their children.
The existing building on site has 27 units for women on their own or with children.
“We’ve had a long-term vision, and to see that go forward is really exciting,” Bayes said. “This is such a core need here because we don’t have a homeless shelter for women.”
Tuesday’s rain only served to reinforce the need for the buildings, Braun said.
“Today’s weather is what is normal for a lot of people during the winter months.”
And while modular projects have met with some opposition in Vancouver and elsewhere, Braun suggested that Abbotsford residents have learned that housing the homeless does not necessarily bring crime to their community.
“There are a lot of people now in this community – not only here but at Hearthstone as well – who are now supporters, who live in those neighbourhoods [and] were dead against what we were doing.”
— Kelvin🐙Gawley (@KelvinGawley) March 27, 2018