Abbotsford has struck a homelessness task force, announced on Thursday, after months of ongoing discussions about how to deal with the city’s homeless residents.
The task force will operate as a committee of council and will be co-chaired by long-time Abbotsford Couns. Patricia Ross and John Smith.
Mayor Bruce Banman said it will work with all levels in the community and conduct engagement activities to “ensure they capture all perspectives and all voices.
“They will be the forum through which the community discusses the issue of homelessness in the City of Abbotsford.”
The task force will include Jim Burkinshaw, volunteer co-ordinator for the Abbotsford Christian Leadership Network; Darin Froese executive director Lower Mainland Non-Profit for BC Housing; Stan Kuperis, Fraser Health Authority’s (FHA) director of clinic programs, mental health and substance use; Lawrence Loh, medical health officer at FHA overseeing a regional portfolio including mental health, substance use and homelessness; Karen Matty, president of Matsqui Development Co. Ltd.; Dave Murray, director of the Abbotsford Food Bank; Abbotsford Police Chief Bob Rich; Dr. Ron van Wyk, associate executive director at the Mennonite Central Committee British Columbia; and Mike Welte, president of the Abbotsford Chamber of Commerce.
The task force co-ordinator will be Cherie Enns, a University of the Fraser Valley associate professor who also works in social planning.
Jake Rudolph, the deputy city manager, will serve as community staff liaison.
The first meeting of the task force will take place in early April.
Coun. Henry Braun, who will not sit on the task force, said that, as it is a council committee, he still plans to attend meetings to listen, stay informed and ask questions.
“I think this is the single-most important thing right now that our community is looking at.”
He said his one concern is that there is no one on the task force from the homeless community who can provide insight.
“I’ve engaged the homeless community at different levels … they have something to say to us.”