More than 100 people turned up for a public meeting on Thursday evening to learn about a proposal to build a transitional housing village for the homeless on Valley Road.
The project, put forward by a group called the Abbotsford Dignitarian Society, has proposed to create a sanctioned homeless community on a privately owned lot off the Abbotsford-Mission Highway near the transfer station.
The concept will have to go before council, likely sometime in October, as the city would need to amend the official community plan (OCP) to designate a portion of the property as a temporary residential use permit.
That would allow for the proposal, which includes up to 40 sleeping cabins, communal laundry, kitchen and bathroom structure and a caretaker/administrative building. The proposal also includes an area for up to five tents to be used for short-term emergency shelters.
A resident of a neighbouring property, who didn’t want his name used, expressed some reservations about the project, saying he was concerned the area is a former dump site as well as on a flood plain.
He said that while he understands the necessity of finding solutions for the homeless, the neighbours have their concerns about people trespassing on their property or the potential for crime.
Jeff Gruban, a board member of the society, said that it was never a garbage dump and what was brought in was structural fill.
“It’s dirt out of the ground that was excavated from one site and moved to another.”
Fae Bentley, who is homeless and sits on the board of the society, said that she really believes that the idea would work.
“If something is to be done for the homeless, it has to be done so we’re proud of it. If we’re proud of it, we’ll take care of it.”
Bentley said she understands that some people are concerned by the proposal, citing issues like noise and people entering onto private property.
But Bentley has been actively involved in coming up with rules for the village, which includes residents respecting themselves, others and all property. She said there will be no drug use or selling of drugs or services in public ares.
Gruban said that they want to keep the site low-barrier, which means they won’t turn away people who use drugs. Instead, he said, they will not allow drug use in the public spaces or communal areas, but won’t prohibit use in the private space of residents.
“What people do in their cabins is up to them.”
He said that way the village is open and accepting to those with addictions, but members of the public could come in and meet residents and not be exposed to drug use.
Bentley added that each person living there would have to contribute a certain number of hours to community work and maintaining the site.
Though Bentley acknowledges the concerns about whether the project will be best to assist the homeless, she asked “but what do we have now?”
An image shows a proposed design for cabins in a proposed village for the homeless.