To members of our city’s Task Force on Homelessness :
It is important that I start by declaring my bias —
I am a very strong supporter of the concept of a village that would house a number of Abbotsford’s presently homeless population. I am not a member of the Abby Digs board, and in no way should my comments reflect on their good work. I am simply offering my own opinions.
Yesterday morning, CKNW’s Bill Good show hosted a representative of Vancouver’s Social Housing Alliance (this segment is available on CKNW’s audio vault). At one point the guest talked about Abbotsford — he said that Abbotsford is “notorious in its treatment of homeless people.”
I can understand your interest in fine-tuning your mission statement — it may help in grant applications. Yet I expect those who are without shelter care more about day-to-day survival than they do about inclusive language.
I sincerely wish committee members knew more about the population being discussed. At a recent meeting the Task Force hosted a guest who supported the Lethbridge model. He said one of the first requirements is that you have someone who knows the names of those who require shelter. Are you aware that people with that knowledge have been working Abbotsford’s streets for years already ?
And are you aware that that knowledge does not appear to be valued ? Those of us who are accustomed to privilege have little need to know anything about the real lives of our street people. And it took me until yesterday’s meeting to understand the concern that your committee does not include someone who actually interacts with our homeless population.
At yesterday’s meeting — when Ms. Graves talked of the person whose bandage had become one with his wound — why did no one ask if he had been take to hospital emergency ?
I am also concerned with the continuing focus of bringing in guests from outside our community. Yes, we did hear from Ms. Graves as to why homelessness is increasing in Vancouver (a fact underlined on Bill Good’s show, July 24th). And as much as Ms. Graves is viewed with much respect, comparisons between providing housing in Vancouver and providing housing in Abbotsford are superficial at best.
I was raised in Vancouver, and until 2011 continued to own property in Vancouver — the church with which I was associated was hands-on in the DTES.
Of course a Dignity-style village would not work in Vancouver. Conversely, solutions that work in Vancouver — such as SRO’s — would not necessarily be the solution in Abbotsford. In particular I question the regulation that disallows residents of some SROs to have guests in their rooms.
Ms. Graves suggestion that Abbotsford purchase a couple of motels and renovate them for the homeless population indicated a lack of understanding of our local market. A Google search of “motels for sale Abbotsford” will provide you with “no active listings”.
Even if you were able to find an apartment block to renovate (which, incidentally, I believe is a good long-term plan), how many months would it take to have that particular solution up and running ?
Of course such a major undertaking would require an influx of both provincial or federal funds, and agreeable neighbours, to become a reality.
So unless you are willing to have our most needy citizens remain in conditions worse than any I have seen anywhere I have travelled, it seems to me the Abby Digs proposal is one that should be seriously considered.
And before you jump into hiring more staff, please consider that the dollar amount that Abby Digs requires to be up and running would be about what it would cost for a couple years’ salary for.a “housing advocate”.
It’s true we should not see ourselves as superior to our street people — they are likely as intelligent as we are, they may even have as much education, and perhaps at one time even more personal worth.
The defining difference is that they sleep outside while we have many rooms available to us, and many warm, dry blankets to comfort us.
— Regina Dalton, Abbotsford