Housing First is definitely coming to Chilliwack. But the initial project has hit a bump in the road.
Chilliwack’s first low-barrier shelter in the form of a temporary modular structure is set to open in the new year, likely February, not this fall, from the parking lot of the Salvation Army property on Yale Road.
It will house 46 people once it’s up and running
“We acknowledge it’s not enough, but are encouraged that we’re heading in the right direction,” said Tim Bohr, Community Ministries Director for Salvation Army of Chilliwack.
The 46 units coming to the Sally Ann in the temporary shelter, are added to the 80 new units under construction by MQHS behind the Canton Gardens, and another 36 units by Ruth and Naomi’s Mission for their new Family Centre.
The exact opening date of the temporary modular shelter is not clear. The slight delay is due to increased demand for portables being faced by the production crews at Britco Structures.
But the real story of the new shelter design will be the flexibility, Bohr said.
They’ll be able to offer a larger unit for a homeless couple to stay together, or possibly for someone who is transgendered, for example, Bohr said, which is a “vulnerable” demographic on the streets.
There are plans in the modular design for a first-aid room, a kennel space for pets, day space, and a kitchenette.
“The model we’ve created here is being considered for use in a number of other communities,” Bohr noted.
With the Temporary Use Permit granted by city council earlier this year for the modular structure, they have three years to initiate construction on the new, permanent shelter building, which is in the planning stages.
Mayor Sharon Gaetz said the low-barrier shelter will provide a temporary solution. Chilliwack is partnering with Sally Ann, and BC Housing on the project.
“People need secure housing and we have a plan,” she said.
“It’s less expensive for government to invest then throwing money at it on an emergency basis.”
“We want everyone to have the opportunity of safe shelter.”
Mayor Gaetz acknowledged the cooperation and considerable effort by BC Housing to get the project underway “really quickly.”
The modular concept provides an “interim fix” for cities inundated with people on the streets, and it’s been rolled out in Abbotsford, and increasingly elsewhere across B.C.