The “urgent” need in Chilliwack for new affordable housing to deal with chronic homelessness is seeing decisive action this week.
The Salvation Army is stepping forward with plans to build the first “low-barrier housing” facility in Chilliwack on its Yale Road site.
There will be 70 beds for the homeless, or those at risk of it, in a mix of emergency shelter and transitional spaces.
City of Chilliwack and Salvation Army reps signed an agreement, a memorandum of understanding (MOU), which was set to be received by council at City Hall Tuesday, for moving forward on the $6.8 million project.
“The City’s Homelessness Action Plan recognizes there is an urgent need for low barrier housing as part of a Housing First approach in Chilliwack,” according to the staff report on the MOU.
The expanded shelter at the Sally Ann site, to be built by 2018, will employ a Housing First approach, geared to getting people off the streets as quickly as possible, and then getting them any help they may need.
“Housing First is a proven approach across North America for ending chronic homelessness,” according to the staff report on the MOU, “involving the provision of immediate housing without requiring psychiatric treatment or sobriety as determinants of ‘housing readiness.'”
There will be second-stage housing, in addition to the existing Care and Share services by Salvation Army like the soup kitchen and food bank.
Council already set side $700,000 in reserve to be used in this exact way, as “leverage” to secure provincial funding for a major Housing First project, and it will be the city’s one-time contribution.
Sally Ann reps are looking to redevelop on an expanded footprint, since purchasing adjoining properties on the Yale Road site.
The expansion will have 40 emergency shelter spaces with a minimum of 10 being low-barrier beds, and 30 second-stage/transitional housing units. The new spaces being planned, will add to the existing housing continuum in the next couple of years, with Ruth & Naomi’s new family centre, and the new affordable housing at the Urban Village.
Those 70 units constitute a “630 per cent increase” in the number of beds the Sally Ann now provides, which includes the existing 11 shelter beds for adults in the permanent shelter.
But “Last fall, in response to escalating homelessness in Chilliwack,” BC Housing approved the creation of 30 low barrier shelter beds, in the form of overnight cots that are placed overnight and removed in the early morning to make space for the Salvation Army’s lunch program. These temporary beds have been “at or close to capacity” added to the 21 to 30 extreme weather beds at Ruth & Naomi’s on nights where temperatures are at or below zero or there are severe weather conditions.
Proof that the need is urgent is also evident in their stop-gap measure.
“Until such time as the development takes place, BC Housing and the Salvation Army are proposing to set up a modular structure with 50 to 60 beds on site to replace the temporary cots and provide greater certainty and stability for shelter users.
A temporary structure could be in place within weeks.
City and Sally Ann reps have been working collaboratively on the challenge of homelessness with other agencies, through their work with Chilliwack Healthier Community, and the Housing First committee.
The MOU agreement signed this week moves the project forward. The recommendation at city hall was:
“That Council receive the Memorandum of Understanding as presented, and further, that staff be directed to work with the Salvation Army and the Province to support the development of the proposed low barrier shelter and transitional housing project.”