Sabrina vandenBrink was the first Chilliwack realtor to answer the call.
When Chilliwack Housing Hub officials unveiled their latest strategy last week to tackle the housing crisis, the idea was calling on real estate agents to donate their commission from one property sale.
When vandenBrink heard that, she thought it over carefully, and got on board.
“I believe that there is a home for everyone in our community, we all just have to care enough to make it happen,” said vandenBrink.
The local realtor went one further and decided to donate not just her commission from one sale, but also another 10 per cent of all her September sales. The generous offer could end up being in the thousands of dollars.
“The reason I am doing this is because everyone wants to point a finger and complain about the problem, but very few are willing to do anything about it,” vandenBrink told The Progress.
“I think it’s our responsibility as a community to help.”
She’s not stopping there, as vandenBrink is also challenging other realtors to follow her lead with the project, and to give something back to the Housing Hub specifically.
Something has to shake loose, because the problem has reached crisis proportions. Chilliwack’s homeless population has more than tripled in three years, with 221 people in Chilliwack counted last year in the Fraser Valley Homeless Count.
Chilliwack has always been known for its “community-minded spirit,” said Kelowa Elel, health director at SSA.
The Housing Hub has evolved into a cooperative effort between Stó:lo Service Agency (SSA), Pacific Community Resources Society (PCRS), and Xolhemet Society, and they have set a goal of housing at least 35 homeless people by April 2019. At least a dozen are on the way.
There is recognition that those living rough face additional challenges enforced by the municipalities.
“They can’t stay in certain areas, tent encampments are removed, bylaws are created to make it difficult to stay, and so on. In Chilliwack, we want the response to be more positive.”
They recognize that people on the streets are “our neighbours, friends, relatives.”
Elel said that vandenBrink made it clear she wanted to help “in a very real way,” and her donation will actively support the work of the Housing Hub.
With vandenBrink stepping up, “it goes a long way to showing how much Chilliwack does care, and for those of us working in social services, it just means so much,” Elel said.
As the first realtor to sign on, vandenBrink’s generosity is being recognized with a giant electronic billboard thanking her for caring, which is visible from Highway 1 near Chilliwack Heritage Park. The billboard was donated by Jon Sohl of Pattison Outdoor Advertising.
“The Housing Hub has no assurance of any government support to continue this work past spring,” noted Elel. “But, in the meantime, we are going to put as much effort as we can into this, help get people into homes and keep encouraging others to get involved.”
The Housing Hub is also working with local property owners and landlords to encourage them to dedicate at least one unit to low-cost, low-barrier, accessible housing. In return, the program guarantees the first and last month’s rent will be paid and the security deposit. They stay in close contact with tenants and assist them with any problems they may face and make sure the unit is restored to its original condition when the tenant vacates.
For more details about donating to the local Housing Hub, call Michael Suedfeld at 604-824-3261.