A homelessness co-ordinator will be hired by the city, following recommendations made by a civic task force on the issue.
Council approved the finalized homelessness task force action plan on Monday, directing the city manager to create a new staff position.
The 2014 homeless count found 151 homeless people in Abbotsford.
A staff report says the intent is not to replicate the work being done by local service providers, but to liaise with government, non-profits and other stakeholders, as well as seek funding sources for the city.
It’s intended to be a “dedicated, impartial, and experienced position.” The position is currently expected to be a manager level with salary and benefits ranging between $92,000 and $124,000.
Jake Rudolph, deputy city manager and staff representative on the task force, said the task force focused on the concept of a dedicated staff member after a presentation from the city of Lethbridge, which has a department for social issues. That city has two positions that focus on issues of homelessness.
As well, council approved the creation of a homelessness action committee that would continue the work of the task force, which began meeting in April.
Coun. Patricia Ross thanked the members of the task force for their work and expressed hope that some representatives would continue to assist the city with the action committee. The task force had members from the community, BC Housing, Fraser Health, the Chamber of Commerce and local service groups.
Coun. Henry Braun said he hopes support from Fraser Health and BC Housing translates into financial support.
Coun. Dave Loewen asked about the working group and whether they would touch on the idea of a dignity village – a facility of transitional housing for homeless people.
There is currently a proposal to build such a service on Valley Road, off the Abbotsford-Mission Highway.
Rudolph said the task force report focuses on longer-term strategies and a housing-first approach, which stresses the need to getting people off the streets before dealing with other issues such as substance abuse or mental health.