Public meeting on proposal to house homeless men

Abbotsford Community Services will answer questions from the public on project that would house 20 men in the downtown core

Stakeholders have been asked to consider an alternate site for Abbotsford Community Services' proposal to build a 20 men home for homeless men.

Stakeholders have been asked to consider an alternate site for Abbotsford Community Services' proposal to build a 20 men home for homeless men.

A proposed facility to house 20 homeless men in downtown Abbotsford will be open for discussion at a public meeting on Wednesday, Oct. 9 from 6 to 8:30 p.m. at Salvation Army Cascade Community Church (35190 DeLair Rd.).

The event will give the public an opportunity to learn about the project, ask questions, voice concerns and address a panel of representatives.

The project, which would be built in partnership with Abbotsford Community Services (ACS) and BC Housing, created controversy when the plans were announced in June.

The low-barrier facility – located at 2408 Montvue Ave. across from the ACS location – would not require that the men be drug- or alcohol-free when entering. The facility would be based on a “housing first” model – a concept that having a roof over someone’s head is the first step before addressing issues of substance abuse or mental health.

But the proposal raised concern for the Abbotsford Downtown Business Association (ADBA), as the proposed site is located within a special downtown zone (C7), which prohibits supportive recovery homes.

The city, ADBA, ACS and BC Housing have been exploring alternatives since the proposal was announced.

A potential solution would be to locate the facility outside of the C7 zone.

The idea was recently endorsed by the Abbotsford Chamber of Commerce, which stated that while they support a housing-first approach to addressing homelessness, it should not be within the C7 zone.

It’s an idea that ACS is willing to consider, but it creates potential issues for the project.

Rod Santiago, executive director of ACS, said the site was chosen because ACS owns the land, which is close to their services. A different location could mean purchasing new land and an increase in operational fees. Santiago said that as BC Housing will not provide additional funds, and ACS does not have the resources, the money would have to come from other partners.

Mayor Bruce Banman said he is pleased all parties are discussing alternatives, but acknowledged there is limited time to come to a decision. He said he’s hopeful another location can be found, but at this point, is unable to say how the additional costs would be covered. He added that there is a possibility of swapping plots of land, or relying on generous donations to cover the additional costs.

The decision as to whether to allow the project to be built ultimately lies with city council, and hesitation could mean BC Housing decides to redirect the $2.4 million in capital funding, plus $215,000 in annual operating costs, to build a facility in another community.