An artists rendering shows the Abby Digs project proposed for Valley Road in Abbotsford. Submitted

Staff recommends turning down application for homeless ‘dignity village’

Support from service providers, but opposition from local residents

A proposal to build 40 small cabins for the homeless on a vacant parcel of land will go before council Monday afternoon.

In a report to council, city staff have recommended rejecting the project’s request for a temporary use permit for a property on Valley Road, off of Highway 11.

While staff say the project would help provide emergency shelter for people experiencing chronic homelessness and praise the “commitment and energy” by the Abbotsford Dignitarian Society, which has put forward the proposal, they cite a range of concerns with the application. Staff note that it doesn’t align with the city’s affordable housing and homelessness plans, and that the application lacks sufficient “evidnce of formal service partnerships, sustainable capital and operating funding” and a track record with similar projects in the past.

Staff also suggest that clustering 40 units in one area could increase risk to occupants’ personal safety. Separate buildings for washrooms and kitchens are proposed on site, but staff say that a lack of such facilities within individual units could lead to health concerns.

Other concerns surround the nature of temporary use permits, the need for servicing on the site, and worries about the safety of occupants when walking along the area’s roads.

The city received a petition with more than 120 names of people opposing the project.

But the proposal did receive written letters of support from organizations at the forefront of providing services to homeless men and women, including Abbotsford Community Services, Lookout Society, and the Mennonite Central Committee.

The staff report “recommends further convened multi-stakeholder dialogue with the Abbotsford Dignitarian Society, City of Abbotsford, statutory agencies, and community partners to work together through the merits and concerns through a Housing First approach lens independent of this application.”

Council will have the final say, though, and is set to hear the application in its 3 p.m. executive council meeting.


@ty_olsen
tolsen@abbynews.com

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