By Walter Paetkau. 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.
These ideals have been developed over the years by the past “healthy cities dialogues”, Chamber of Commerce symposiums, the “vibrant communities” developments and, most recently, the City of Character initiatives.
I would urge that the ideal of inclusion also include the proposed project for the homeless. This would be in keeping with what Abbotsford has accomplished with so many other segments of the population over the years and most recently in the realization of the Christine Lamb Residence for women and the George Schmidt Centre for those with addiction problems. Endorsed by many studies, such inclusion strengthens communities and ensures greater economic stability.
Two factors would make the proposed social housing project a success, the sponsor, Abbotsford Community Services, and the proposed location.
Community Services, established in the late 1960’s, evolved into a major multi-service, multi-funded community social agency providing a net work of care and services to a large, diverse community. The agency became respected in the lower mainland and in the province as a leader in the field of community development and in the provision of service. It was sought out as a model by other communities developing similar services. Over time the local community recognized it as a major institution along side the many other service providers in the community. A decade ago Community Services became an accredited agency through a provincial audit assuring that all coming to its doors would receive quality service.
With its rich experience, proven leadership and quality of service delivery Community Services is the ideal sponsor for this project. It will assure professional supervision and will work in close partnership with the Housing Ministry and the local community to assure the safety and decorum of downtown Abbotsford. An aspect of the program, establishing a Good Neighbourhood Committee, will include the down town business community to assure that all voices are brought to the table in providing insight and direction for success.
The proposed location, at the south east end of the Community Services property, is an ideal spot. Not only is there built in around-the-clock supervision in the lower floor of the proposed building but there is immediately accessible the array of family and other support services within the Community Services care network Re-zoning the proposed property is a contentious issue. 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 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.
Walter Paetkau is the Founder and former Executive Director of Community Services, 1969-2000
To read the original letter sent to Abbotsford Council simply click here.
For the latest on the Abbotsford Chicken Manure Homeless Incident simply click here.
For the latest on the ACS Supportive Housing Debate simply click here.