Tenants in a transitional-housing program in Abbotsford have been given only a few days to vacate their premises after the society running it announced it is ceasing operations.
Many Ways Home Housing Society issued a “notice to vacate” to tenants this week, saying it would be closing down operations as of Aug. 25 and that tenants must be out by then.
The notice is dated Aug. 12, but tenants say they did not receive it until Aug. 17. And they have little or no recourse because transitional housing does not fall under the rental rules of the B.C. Residential Tenancy Branch that require several weeks’ notice for an eviction.
One tenant, Jared Davidson, said the notice has been devastating for him and others impacted by the decision.
He said the majority of the residents are recovering addicts who are clean and sober and who have made great strides in improving their lives. Others have mental-health challenges, and some have their children living with them.
“For normal people without the challenges that people in transitional housing face, (a few) days to find a place to live and move would be considered extremely difficult, almost impossible,” he said.
“The fact is that many of us are facing being forced out on the streets. We have basically no rights here.”
Many Ways Homes Housing, a non-profit society started in 2019 out of the city’s Homelessness Task Force, currently houses 45 people on properties it rents from landlords, including townhouses and a basement suite.
The tenants are either referred to the program or apply themselves, and they are people who would otherwise have difficulty finding housing due to their situations – for example, a criminal background or substance-abuse history.
Josh Bach, one of the society’s current four directors, said the main reason for the closure is that it is no longer financially feasible for Many Ways Home Society to operate it.
He said once the combined rent the society receives from its tenants is paid to the landlords and for utilities, it leaves “very little” to pay for outreach workers.
Bach said Many Ways Home received a $60,000 grant for each of its first two years, but that funding ran out in April 2021.
He said this has been exacerbated by the resignation in February – for personal reasons – of the two directors on the board who were versed in housing, homelessness and substance-abuse issues.
Bach said the society also had an executive director for the last quarter of 2020, but he was let go because they couldn’t afford to keep him.
He said the remaining four directors – himself, Kevin Mierau, Matej Balaz and Dave Sidhu – can handle the office-administration part but have no knowledge of the other issues.
“For six months, we directors have been trying to find one agency or another to take over our operations, while keeping the lights on and the rents paid,” Bach said.
“We have been told that discussions reached the table of David Eby (attorney general and minister responsible for housing), our Mayor Henry Braun, as well as BC Housing … Sufficient funding was not available for anyone to take over our operations and run it properly.”
As well, he said the society was recently advised that their directors’ and officers’ insurance would not be renewed, expiring Aug. 27, and they can no longer continue without that insurance. This left little time to notify tenants, he said.
“Our discussions for someone to take over our operations have lasted well into August, so it was not possible to give residents more notice.”
Davidson, who shares a townhouse with three others, said he and the other tenants of Many Ways Home are not sure of their next steps. The notice to vacate provided a list of local agencies they could contact, but he said there has been no in-person support.
“Even if a few of us are able to figure something out, most people here aren’t able to handle living at local shelters, where drugs (can be) rampant. I looked outside and there are men sitting in chairs, some holding their heads in their hands, shaking; others crying. It’s just not right,” he said.
City of Abbotsford spokesperson Aletta Vanderheyden said the city has been connecting with BC Housing “to support the continuation of these valuable services to our community.”
“Many Ways Home Housing Society provided essential services to vulnerable individuals in our community,” she said.
• Davidson has started a GoFundMe campaign to help raise funds to provide temporary housing (such as in a hotel) for the tenants while they look for more permanent residences.