Immediately upon presenting its proposal for a Supported Housing Projected near downtown Abbotsford, Abbotsford Community Services (ACS) was attacked in a shrill, illiterate and illogical campaign by the Abbotsford Downtown Business Association (ADBA) with a petition filled with inaccuracies and a reported campaign of outright lies by downtown merchants in order to stop what some still perceive as an attack on their livelihood.
There have been accusations that Abbotsford’s politicians have already made up their minds based on statements made by Mayor Banman on CBC and Councillor Bill MacGregor at the June 12 Abbotsford Social Development Advisory Committee (ASDAC) meeting.
Many who are close to the situation or have watched Abbotsford politics for years have expressed a sense that, whatever they feel obliged to say in public, Abbotsford Council has already made up its mind on the ACS proposal and will vote unanimously against it. There is no word yet whether the APD has decided to continue its policy of abusing and terrorizing the homeless once the heat is off and the national media is no longer watching.
Those who work day and night with the homeless are just glad for the brief reprieve from the violence and the hate.
Even those who fight to protect the homeless from the police, the bylaw department, the parks department and all those in Abbotsford who are determined to terrorize homelessness out of existence admit they will be surprised if Abbotsford Council does anything but vote unanimously to keep the war against the poor going.
There are those in our community who will, it seems, devote any amount of their friends’ and neighbours’ money to ridding the city of homeless people, no matter what it takes, by harassing them, putting them in jail or, in the case of our anti-harm reduction bylaw, encouraging them to just die on the street.
There is much more to be said during this watershed moment in our history and, so far there are some very important and influential voices which are remaining strangely silent.
Unless they have the courage to stand up before their friends and neighbours and be counted, the predictions about councillors’ pre-determined vote will turn out to be true. We would like to introduce you to just a few of those who have had the courage to stand up and be counted.
ACS has devoted a section of their website to the letters of support they have received and Abbotsford Today has published a selection of them. We’ve linked the excerpts below to their full letters.
We’ll be updating our section on the ACS proposal and this post as more letters of support come in. Check back regularly to see who has stepped up lately.
Supporters Of The ACS Proposal
Dr. Elizabeth Watt Speaks Out On ACS Proposal
I understand that there is trepidation on the part of the downtown businesses and residents
in the area of the proposed building, so I have researched as much as I can on the policies
and procedures that will be put in place once the apartment complex is ready to inhabit. I
believe that Abbotsford Community Services (ACS) has planned proficiently for this
The visible homeless shelters that pop up at different times and places in Abbotsford are a
reality that we need to address as a Community. Sadly, they represent only a fraction of
those who live without stable shelter, as many know how to hide themselves well to avoid
detection, trauma, or removal. Our Communities are known by how we treat our most
vulnerable, and I hope that we can do the right thing for this population.
We need to allow the experts in this to do what they know will work. We have to try something to alleviate the homelessness in Abbotsford, to offer a helping hand to our fellow citizens instead of shying away and casting a blind eye. Offer these men some dignity and respect. None of us know the life and struggles they have had to deal with. None of us have the right to judge but we do have a moral obligation to provide the opportunity to these men to take a step towards helping themselves.
I believe this will benefit the downtown core, not hurt it. Is it not better for businesses if there are less homeless people in the downtown area? These men will no longer be homeless once they have been screened and accepted into the supportive housing project. The key words here being screened and accepted. Abbotsford Community Services is one of the largest employers in the area providing many essential services. What better location for this housing project then on their back door step. What better monitoring and checks and balances could you have than the landlord right there?
I ask that you make an informed decision regarding this issue. Thank you for taking the time to read my letter of support.
It is both humane and practical to provide housing and support for homeless people. Homelessness is associated with many social problems. The costs of providing emergency medical care, policing, and legal services is huge. It seems more practical to take a preventative approach.
Recently our community has been presented in a less than charitable light because of the anti-harm reduction by-law and manure spreading to force homeless people to move. It is time to restore our reputation. Whether you feel that homelessness is the fault of the individual or not, it is both practical and more cost-effective to adopt the ACS type of solution.
I am concerned that the vigorous opposition to the proposed housing project is painting an image of Abbotsford that does not fit into its proclaimed ideals of being a progressive, vibrant, inclusive city.
While the ADBA has indicated its strong opposition to re-zoning I would sincerely hope that there might be some give on this, hopefully a move towards partnership which would make this even a more successful, community venture.
It is my understanding that should the re-zoning request not receive approval by the City that the Province in all likelihood will not consider another site as the approval of the project was tied into the proposed site owned by Community Services. This would mean that the project is dead and that the capital resources and long term operational funding made available by the province would no longer be available, at least not for many years to come.
This would then mean a lost resource for the homeless and a lost resource for the community, a loss that the ABDA may learn to regret. It would also mean tarnishing an image of inclusion that is so foundational in building community.
In my personal opinion, if the ADBA succeeds in stopping this project, public perception and media outlets will label them as the ultimate NIMBYs, and given the Abbotsford’s recent black eye in regards to compassion for the homeless, it will be a PR disaster. Abbotsford Community Services has extended to the ADBA an opportunity to be involved with the operation of this facility in an advisory capacity, and that is where they should concentrate their efforts and where they can make the most positive impact for the community. This new apartment for homeless men with multiple barriers (including poor mental and physical health, addictions, poverty etc.) is needed and it will help. The men already do live in the area, but what will change is that some will transform their lives and get better. The ADBA should do itself a favor; one that will also work to the benefit of these homeless men, and retract its petition. The ADBA can do more good for the community by mitigating the damage this petition will cause.
The facility on McDougall Avenue was eventually passed by the City and built soon after, and it has never been a problem for the property owners or merchants in the ADBA. It exists, it’s doing fine work and there are no issues with its clientele. That is because it does not affect the downtown in a negative way. As the president of the ADBA at the time, I was ignorant of mental health issues and I regret participating in creating an obstacle to the very important work that happens at this facility.
Cover image from occupy-oc.org