In his column, “Our Collective Silence”, Vince Dimanno pointed out that, “Langley and Chilliwack both committed to real change and have built facilities that house, feed, educate, mentor and empower the people that need help to do what we want them to do. They get people back into housing and back to work and back to a contributing life.”
What does that look like?
Some of those in Abbotsford who oppose the Abbotsford Community Services (ACS) supported housing project may be doing so out of fear. Fear that, as one letter-writer to The News put it, we would simply be creating another slum.
Well … not really.
If you take a look at what Chilliwack has built, right on the outskirts of its downtown core, you will see that, along with helping most of the homeless get off of the streets, it has added a beautiful building to the neighbourhood as well – one of which the residents can be rightly proud.
More than that, the businesses and residents of Chilliwack can be proud of what they’ve built as well.
How did they do it? BC Housing explains it this way:
Modular units that once provided athletes with accommodations during the Vancouver 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games were relocated and converted into 33 new supportive rental apartments in Chilliwack.
The Village, located at 8937 School St. in Chilliwack, was named after Whistler’s Olympic Athletes’ Village. The four-storey building provides 22 apartments for adults with mental-health barriers and 11 apartments for youth at risk of homelessness. Chilliwack Community Services Society and Creative Centre Society partnered to operate the building and provide onsite support services.
The Province invested $8.3 million, provided the land valued at $1 million, and is also providing $297,406 in annual operational funding. Chilliwack Community Services Society provided $400,000 in equity which went towards offices space for youth services and the City of Chilliwack waived municipal fees estimated at $311,651.
The building also includes office space for staff to provide onsite support for tenants, a community kitchen, dining area, lounge and reception area.
In total, 320 temporary modular housing units from the Olympic and Paralympic Village at Whistler are being converted into 156 permanent, affordable apartments in six communities: Saanich, Chilliwack, Enderby, Sechelt, Surrey and Chetwynd.
And they didn’t harass, pepper spray, poison, beat, disperse and displace,or cover a single homeless person with chicken feces to do it. They simply put their heads, their hearts and their wallets together to take care of their fellow citizens.
Instead of funneling all of the money to the Salvation Army and other programs which refuse to help anyone who drinks or uses drugs, Chilliwack spreads the money around and uses more than faith-based abstinence driven treatment to help their fellow citizens.
In Chilliwack they haven’t outlawed other forms of help or classified their citizens as worthy or not of help according to the problems from which they suffer.
It’s a formula from which Abbotsford should learn a thing or two.
Here’s what Chilliwack Mayor Sharon Gaetz and CCSS director James Challman have to say about the project.
“Citizens of Chilliwack have been very supportive of this project and it is wonderful to see it complete and open for tenants to move in. The Village will give at-risk adults and youth from this community the opportunity to live independently while getting the help and support they need right on site.” – Mayor Sharon Gaetz, City of Chilliwack
“Our society focuses on providing opportunities for people to make positive changes in their lives. The Village is an example of where people with mental-health challenges and youth at risk of homelessness are able to live and share their stories, grow relationships and skills and truly feel like they belong.” – James Challman, executive director of Chilliwack Community Services Society
For more on the debate over Abbotsford’s attempt to provide a low barrier home for the homeless in Abbotsford simply click here.