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ACLN luncheon presents plan for Abbotsford's homeless

ACLN luncheon presents plan for Abbotsford’s homeless

By Debbie Cazander

 

At a recent Abbotsford Christian Leaders Network (ACLN) luncheon the issue of homelessness was discussed and city representatives shared plans to address some of the concerns in Abbotsford.

ACLN executive member and pastor at Bethel Reformed church, Ron Opmeer, welcomed everyone and led in a brief time of worship. Salvation Army pastor, Mark Dunstan (Cascade Community church) read verses 7, 8 10 and 11 from Deuteronomy 15, wherein God commands His people to be generous to help the poor and those in need. Dunstan continued, “… in Abbotsford we have a city council that is working hard, along with the many people, churches and organizations to reach out and minister to the homeless in our community.”

He stressed that “there is great need” for others to see this issue as a priority and to be willing to either partner with, or financially support those in the community who are already working to alleviate the distress experienced by the homeless.
Dunstan introduced Abbotsford City Councillor Ross Siemens, chair of the Homelessness Action Committee. Siemens expressed gratitude for the Salvation Army’s daily work in supporting the homeless of Abbotsford, adding that those who are homeless are souls – and therefore worthy of our help.

Siemens said that the city has developed a Homeless Action Plan and is approaching the situation using a foundation of five basic strategic directions:
1. Taking a “housing first approach”
2. Advocating for housing and wrap-around support
3. Initiating a prevention program
4. Creating a culture of inclusiveness and respect
5. Fostering collaboration between agencies, community and government.

In 2015 the city hired Dena Kae Beno to be the Housing and Homelessness Coordinator for Abbotsford. As she was unable to attend the luncheon, City deputy manager Jake Rudolph joined Siemens, reiterating that the homeless are not merely numbers for statistical purposes but are real people. He reported that Abbotsford has a very low vacancy rate and encouraged people to consider ways to create housing for those who are homeless or facing impending homelessness due to eviction.

The city’s website provides this statistical information: 24 per cent of all households in Abbotsford spend more than 30 per cent of income on housing; 39 per cent of renters spend more than 30 per cent of income on housing; and over 160 households are on the wait list for BC Housing, with families representing approximately 40 per cent of those on the wait list. Since these numbers were taken a few years ago, they have likely increased.

Siemens and Rudolph went on to share plans for a Hub for homeless adults, which is now in the works. It would be similar to The Foundry, a hub or one location for youth to connect to receive help. The hub for homeless adults would be a drop-in centre to foster connection and relationships. Those without shelter would find warmth in winter and shade from summer heat. In many ways it would be a service hub, with multi stakeholders offering their input and support, helping to address the present overlap of services being offered. A coordinated intake and referral network will concentrate on providing this service to 30 people to begin with. Both men stressed the importance of prayer to bless this endeavour, and acknowledged that although the “government can set the table it cannot make the people partake of the help.”

The next ACLN luncheon is planned for Wednesday, September 20. Info at wwwchurchofabbotsford.com.
For more info on the work being done by the City of Abbotsford, go to

www.abbotsford.ca/business_and_development/major_initiatives/Homelessness_Action_Plan.htm

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