Sunday, October 7, 2018

Homelessness in Abbotsford, Four Years Later

Since the fall of 2014, significant progress has taken place in this city’s efforts to address homelessness. The memories of the years just prior to 2014 would recall several unpleasant and confrontational exchanges between the homeless, their advocates, and the City, culminating in a court challenge that wound its way to the Supreme Court, concluding during this term.

As the result of recommendations from the Task Force on Homelessness, 2014, an Action Plan with Five Strategic Directions resulted. The first and most important step was the hiring of a full-time Coordinator of Homelessness (Housing added later to her portfolio), and together with a newly-created Homelessness Action Advisory Committee, launched an ambitious program to address homelessness. A critical factor in determining the effectiveness of this committee was the invitation to key players to sit at this table – Fraser Health, BC Housing, Salvation Army, MCC, Abbotsford Community Services, and several local service providers. I was honoured to chair this committee for the first two years, and I’m sure I speak for Councillor Siemens in saying he too considered it an honour to chair it in the last two years.

The federal government granted the city $400K to apply towards research and development of a Homelessness Prevention and Response System for addressing homelessness, which will be a pilot for eventual application across Canada. This system “…is not solely owned, managed or funded by one level of Government, one agency, or sector. The System is a community resource system comprised of the collaborative efforts, projects, initiatives and programs with aligned purpose to respond to and prevent homelessness.”

Collaborative Stakeholder mapping for the Homelessness Prevention and Response System

Since the fall of 2014, the collaborative impact has provided for the following changes through policy advocacy, collaboration, alignment of activities across sectors, shared funding, and coordination:

System Component

Extreme Weather Mat
-We succeeded in having the definition of extreme weather changed to include cold wet weather
Outreach Services
-Salvation Army – Homelessness Prevention Program (HOP)
-Salvation Army -HOP
-ACS – Homelessness Prevention Program (HPP)
-Look Out Society – HPP
-Ministry of Social Development – Integration Workers Inter-Agency Care Team supporting Integrated Outreach activities
Integrated Health and Housing Outreach and Wrap-Around Support

-Assertive Community Treatment
-Inter-Agency Care Team (Fraser Health Authority, City of Abbotsford (Service Canada funded)
Enhanced Health Linkages
-Abbotsford Hospital
-Primary Health Services
-Abbotsford Mental Health and Substance Use
-Home Health Care
-Abbotsford Hospital
-Primary Health Services
-Abbotsford Community Hub Centre (feasibility study nearing completion)
-Integrated health services and linkages across divisions
-Opioid response activities (Community Action Team, Project Angel Initiative, Peer Network and Engagement activities
-70 units of supportive housing
-100 units of supportive housing
-80+ units now in City review process
-60 units in process (First Nations project)
-Housing with Abbotsford Rental Connect (securing rental units in the private market)
Additional rent subsidies from BC Housing
System Sustainability

Collaborative Stakeholder mapping for the Homelessness Prevention and Response System;
-Harm Reduction Strategy
-Affordable Housing Strategy update
-Exploring Abbotsford Housing Foundation
-Affordable Housing Strategy Update
-Shared Outcome and Measurement and Data Management
Community Capacity Building

-Community of Integrated Practice
-Curriculum development
-Virtual Platform Development

40-Bed Emergency Shelter on Riverside Road.

Announcing 80 Modular Housing units for Abbotsford, 2018

Councillor Loewen, Shane Williams (Ex. Director, Lookout Society), & Minister Selina Robinson, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing.  

The following is taken from a recent report tabled by the City’s Coordinator of Housing and Homelessness.

The Abbotsford Homelessness Prevention and Response System pilot is continuing.
1)      Housing with Abbotsford Rental Connect has fully launched and has completed 20 pre-screens for housing applicants, 3 intakes and the age of participants ranges from the majority being below 50 years of age to the oldest participant being 80 years old.
2)      The Inter-Agency Care Team/Intake Function are currently providing intensive support for 37 participants,
3)      The Intake Function for the Coordinated Intake and Referral for housing, health, income assistance, and community support has received close to 256 referrals into the system since September 1, 2017, and are working closely with the inter-agency outreach collaborative, Ministry of Social Development, health service networks, and local agencies to support individuals who may be experiencing homelessness to strive towards accessing services, wellness, and housing readiness;
4)      Twelve of the 37 individuals receiving intensive support from the Team are currently housed and others are working towards housing readiness and individual wellness goals.
5)      Abbotsford Housing Endowment Fund/Foundation exploration is continuing.
6)      The Civic Mobile Application is being reviewed for potential to be utilized as a virtual platform for public and stakeholder communications and the City’s web-page is being updated to include a resource repository.

Hearthstone Place, Gladys Ave.
31-Unit, Long-term Housing

An “Abbotsford Stories Project” is underway, which will produce video-based, personal stories and resources for workers in this field. In addition, the City is collaborating with University of Fraser Valley to develop on-line, web-based curriculum for the Community of Practice resources. Annual community forums are held for a wide variety of stakeholders and people working in the field, for professional development in this field of work. The most recent one was attended by over 140 participants, and the major focus was on peer voice and engagement.

The task of addressing homelessness is complex with multiple facets. The increasing number of those who find themselves homeless in our community can be discouraging, and it is certainly cause for concern. The city is in a much better position today than it was four years ago. The city and its partner organizations have accomplished more than all previous councils combined and have laid a solid foundation for continued work at addressing homelessness, notwithstanding the growth in homeless numbers. Today, Abbotsford is regarded as a leader within the municipal community across BC. I believe that momentum is now in our favour in the goal of providing a home for everyone.

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