Petition opposes Dignity Village proposal

Concerns raised over property crime and rural location

This vacant property on Valley Road is the suggested location for a Dignity Village-type encampment.

More than 100 people have signed a petition opposing a proposed transitional homeless village on Valley Road, according to Rob Mrcela, the area resident who gathered the signatures.

The petition expresses concerns about property crime and the rural location of the proposal.

“There are significant concerns with other such ‘tent villages’ that exist in Abbotsford already,” the petition reads. “Problems include increased crime, open drug use and dealing, violence, garbage and hazardous bio-waste from used drug paraphernalia.”

Mrcela said 141 people signed the petition within the last month. He dropped it off at city hall on Friday.

The petition urges the city to adopt other measures to house its homeless population.

“Supportive housing is an evidence-based solution to homelessness, tent villages are not evidence-based,” it states. The petition says the camp would lead to longer emergency response and make it more difficult to homeless residents to access services.

“An urban problem cannot be fixed with a rural solution,” it reads.

Mrcela, says he lives within a half a kilometre of the proposed site of the village which would be located at 33725 Valley Rd.

“It’s not a good idea,” he said. “This population is going to be basically stranded out there.”

Mrcela said he would oppose the plan, even if the dignity village was not going to be located nearby. “We feel the city is basically pushing them out of sight, out of mind.”

The privately owned site, located at 33725 Valley Rd. off the Abbotsford-Mission Highway, has been proposed for a homeless village by the Abbotsford Dignitarian Society and has been dubbed the “Abby Digs.”

One acre is proposed for the village’s first phase of development.

The society received $10,000 from the Abbotsford Downtown Business Association (ADBA), which came out opposed to a supportive housing project that was rejected, after a tied vote, by council earlier this year.

For the housing component of the project to move forward, the city would have to amend the official community plan (OCP) to designate a portion of the subject property as a temporary residential use permit area.

That would allow the organization to develop up to 40 sleeping cabins; a communal laundry, kitchen and bathroom structure; and a caretaker/administrative building. The proposal also includes an area for up to five tent sites to be used as short-term emergency shelters.

The issue will go to council at an upcoming meeting, but no date has yet been set.

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