Abbotsford Community Services (ACS), in partnership with BC Housing is proposing to develop a 21-unit apartment building on their property at 2408 Montvue Avenue in Abbotsford, adjacent to the ACS offices. The project will house men who are homeless or at-risk of homelessness.
This is the third project in Abbotsford which addresses the issue of homelessness and its impact on the community, with the first being the Christine Lamb Residence on Clearbrook Road and the second being the George Schmidt Centre on King Road.
In the interest of having a factual discussion about what the proposal entails,
What does low barrier housing mean?
The supported apartment building proposed for 2408 Montvue Avenue will be “low-barrier” housing for homeless men living in the downtown core, or those at risk of homelessness. This model follows a “housing first” strategy, which has proven people are more likely to seek services and be stable if they have a home. Residents will not be required to be clean and sober to live here, but they will be expected to follow strict rules with regard to their conduct, both inside and outside the building. Services will be provided to help residents work towards stability, wellness and independence. Residents will be accountable for working towards those goals.
What kind of supervision will there be in this building?
This is a supported housing initiative. ACS will provide on-site supervision for this building 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
Will the residents be helped to make changes in their lives?
Absolutely. The on-site staff will be working with every resident to move them towards health and sobriety. Each resident will be assessed upon entry and a plan will be developed to address their individual needs. ACS will have outreach staff working with residents as well as mental health workers, social workers, counselors, nurses and other skilled professionals to address the specific needs.
How will tenants be selected to live in this building?
The primary goal of this proposal is to help men already on the downtown streets, or those in the community who are most at risk of homelessness. ACS staff and outreach workers will connect with these individuals here in Abbotsford. The last homeless count indicated Abbotsford had over 100 homeless people. Experts believe this number is understated. Include those people who do not have stable, affordable housing and the need is even greater.
The admission process will ensure there is a blend of residents that allows ACS to create a functional, stable community. A tenant selection committee will be made up of ACS staff, an addictions specialist, Food Bank representatives, Abbotsford Police Department and community members. Each potential resident will be required to be on the BC Housing Registry and complete an in-depth application to assist with the screening process.
Suitable candidates will be those who agree to the rules of the facility and are willing to work on goals identified at intake. These may include addiction issues, mental and physical health or employment.
Can neighbours know who is living there, particularly those with a criminal record?
Like any renter in any apartment in our community, residents of these apartments have a right to privacy. Every person who applies to live in these apartments will be screened by a tenant selection committee that manages the building.
What will the building look like?
The building will be a good quality, three story apartment building that will complement the urban context. Professional landscaping will enhance the look and delineate private and public spaces. Inside will be 21 apartments, including one for a caretaker. On the ground floor you will find programming space for the residents, offices for ACS staff and spaces where counselors, nurses and other service providers can work with residents. This format allows for complete access control in and out of the building. The building would also contain a private courtyard where residents can spend time outdoors.
Each apartment will be fully self-contained units with bathroom, kitchen and combined bachelor style bedroom & living room.
Local examples are the Christine Lamb Residence for women and children, located at 3096 Clearbook Road and the George Schmidt Centre for men, located at 32144 King Road – both of which are partnerships with BC Housing, the City of Abbotsford and the non-profit providers.
When is this scheduled to be built?
This project is currently at the proposal stage. Once approved by the City of Abbotsford and BC Housing, it is expected that it will take until late 2013 to finalize design drawings and roughly 10 months to build. A completed, occupied building is projected to be in place by the end of 2014, or early 2015.
Who can I contact with concerns?
Should you have concerns, please contact Abbotsford Community Services and speak to Rod Santiago, Executive Director or Nadine Power, Operations Manager.
If I see someone I know from the building engaging in what I think are illegal activities what should I do?
There are two things you can do. First, if you see illegal activity in the community, call the APD. Second, you can bring it to the Good Neighbour Committee.
What is the Good Neighbour Committee?
ACS will create a Good Neighbour Committee, with representatives from the society, APD, representatives of the business and local resident community. This group will meet on a regular basis and will be tasked with responding effectively and quickly to any issues brought forward by neighbours. In addition, ad-hoc meetings can be called at any time to address specific concerns that require quick attention. Good Neighbour Committees are in place for a number of service providers across B.C., and as well as commercial operations like bars and nightclubs.
How long will people stay in these apartments?
The length of time that people stay in supportive housing varies, depending on the needs of the individual. ACS intends to house individuals for up to two years with the goal of reintegration during that time. There is always a focus on recovery and enhancing independence in low barrier supported housing. Many tenants are able to gain skills that enable them to move from more intensive to less intensive supported housing sites or independent housing. Some people with mental illness or complicated conditions continue to require some level of support.
What safeguards are in place to ensure that there will not be any negative impacts on the community as a result of the supported housing?
Before entering ACS Supportive Housing, prospective tenants are assessed to ensure they are eligible, understand and agree to the expectations for behaviour, and are willing to learn the skills required to live independently. The housing site will be overseen directly by ACS, and linked to clinical staff that is available to respond to community concerns or issues. Housing support staff gets to know each tenant, and works with them to address any behaviour that may negatively impact the residents and neighbouring community. If a tenant is not able to refrain from negative behaviours, he is required to leave this housing, and is assisted to find a more appropriate setting.
Will the construction of supported housing lead to an increase in crime?
Experience in other jurisdictions has shown that supported housing can work as part a crime reduction strategy. If homeless people are in stable housing, there is less likelihood they will create public disorder and they will be in a better position to address life challenges they may face.
Abbotsford Community Services has 44 years of experience providing services to the community.