LETTER: Devastating defeat of the ACS homeless proposal

Impact of decision does the opposite of an intent to care for all members of the community

Dear Mayor Banman, Councillors MacGregor, Smith and Barkman:

The City of Abbotsford had before it a win-win, low-barrier housing proposal, ready for approval in early February. It was the full package, complete with $15 million  in provincial funding, a piece of property picked in conjunction with city assent, ready to build for 20 homeless men and administered by our very own Abbotsford Community Services.

All that work, all that time and all that money was spent putting together ACS’s plan, at the city’s request and with the city’s assent, only to have the city withdraw support at the 11th hour.

The city’s flip-flop by Mayor Banman, MacGregor, Smith and Barkman scuppered the only viable win-win plan on the table. There was/is no other alternative when they aborted that plan. Our community and its homeless community lost out as a result. It is hard to understand how that upholds claims that this is about “…every member of the community, with respect to housing and care, and I do not at any time want to see winners and losers in this equation!”

Although there are now claims by opposed councillors that they hope to find a win-win for all, the defeated ACS proposal threatens to harm the very people they now claim to want to help, and also harms the very people who have been supporting them. That devastating defeat of the ACS proposal has done the exact opposite of the now claimed intent.

In spite of those grievous losses, the mayor and opposed councillors now prefer to talk about achieving a win-win for a non-existent proposal, non-existent funding, non-existent timelines, non-existent property and a non-existent operations administrator. The only winners in this so-called win-win version are the ADBA’s unsubstantiated fears.

All the relevant published facts support the ACS proposal while belying the ADBA’s unsubstantiated fears. C7 zoning is not a contractual agreement, never was, never will be. All the evidence from neighbouring communities report that facilities like the one proposed by ACS make matters better for all, not worse (as was speculated by the ADBA).

The recent “rally for the homeless” at city hall underlines how disturbed a growing number of people in Abbotsford have become. They’ve chosen to become involved as agents of positive change. I fear that  Banman and some objecting councillors may have misread the rally’s goodwill commitment.  It is outrage at the city’s vote against the only viable solution for Abbotsford’s homeless that inspired them, but their commitment to tend the homeless, in spite of the outrage, is now the focus that sustains/drives them to seek solutions.

The city has gambled with the lives of the homeless when it rejected ACS’s ready-to-go, funded proposal.

What happens now if the city fails to come up with a better actionable proposal soon?

Walter Neufeld

Abbotsford