Rental supplements could help house Abbotsford’s homeless

20 individuals will receive top-ups from B.C. Housing

The homeless shelter on Riverside Road has 40 beds. File photo

The Riverside Shelter in Abbotsford has helped move 146 people into more permanent housing since it opened in 2015, but only four per cent of those men and women found themselves living in market rental homes and apartments.

That number may rise in the coming months, thanks to new funds from the provincial government.

B.C. Housing recently approved $188,000 in ongoing annual funding for supplements to go through the shelter on Riverside Road, run by the Lookout Housing and Health Society. The money will pay for outreach staff, supplies and transport, as well as top-ups to help 20 of the community’s most vulnerable individuals afford rent in a red-hot housing market with the country’s lowest vacancy rate.

“So you have a 0.2 vacancy rate in Abbotsford … it’s just incredible,” Lookout’s executive director, Shayne Williams, said. “How do people get housed? This is just one more tool to help people take that step forward.”

The province already funds 40 such supplements though the Salvation Army in Abbotsford and 20 through Abbotsford Community Services.

Williams said the supplements will also free up space in the “constantly full” Riverside Shelter, as people living outside face another “daunting winter.”

Riverside was originally planned as a temporary 40-bed shelter, slated to close in September this year. This summer, however, B.C. Housing decided to continue funding its operation costs “so that it can operate until an alternative is developed,” according to documents acquired by The News through a Freedom of Information request.

The shelter is on city land.

Williams said there has been a shift in attitude from the city towards homelessness in recent years.

“The municipality has done such a wonderful job at creating more opportunities for the community’s most vulnerable in Abbotsford,” he said. “It’s come a long way from past challenges within council.”

The shelter is accepting donated goods to gift to its clients for Christmas, Williams said. Items can be dropped off at 1640 Riverside Rd.

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