THE HELP IS
Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) hold a weekly barbeque for Abbotsford homeless. Renters find help through the Raven's Moon program.
hey say that home is where your story begins.
When you donít have a home, it throws your whole world into chaos. The need for a place to call our own is so foundational to the human experience that the United Nations has defined it as a human right. Homelessness affects people across the globe and right here in Canada. According to research done in 2016 by the Canadian Observatory on Homelessness, ď235,000 Canadians will experience homelessness in a given year. 35,000 Canadians will be homeless tonight.
In August of 2010 MCC BC launched the Fraser Valley Rental Assistance Project to respond to the rising numbers of homeless individuals in the Fraser Valley. MCC BCís Homelessness Prevention and Outreach Program (HPOP) runs a wide variety of services that include the Rent Bank, weekly meals, emergency shelter, sponsorship of low barrier housing in partnership with Ravenís Moon Resource Society, and Homelessness Abbotsford Rental Connect.
The Rent Bank provides interest-free loans to individuals and families who are facing eviction due to a temporary critical shortage of funds. Without MCCís help, these temporary shortfalls could be enough to put a family out on the street. With a one-time crisis loan from MCC, individuals and families are able to manage their own housing stability. In addition to the loan, HPOP provides financial literacy education to help ensure that clients are in a sustainable financial situation, advocacy between landlords and tenants/utility companies and referrals to other service organizations. HPOP also provides rental assistance to homeless individuals who have found housing and are seeking to exit the streets. Grants for lost I.Dís are also issued.
MCC BCís partnership with Ravenís Moon provides housing to people with barriers such as addiction, a past history of addiction or a criminal record that make it hard for them to secure rental accommodations. Ravenís Moon was started by two women, Jeanette Dillabough and Sharon Forbes, both social workers, who saw far too many people unable to find housing and decided to do something about it. Their solution was profoundly simple: they began renting homes and putting people in them.
Ravenís Moon provides wraparound services that ensure that the landlords are paid on time, any conflicts are handled promptly and that the residents in each home have the best chance at making positive life choices. Ravenís Moon currently has 14 homes and seven basement suites that they rent out. The houses are scattered throughout several Abbotsford neighborhoods and with the help and supervision of the staff from Ravenís Moon, the residents are good neighbors.
One past Ravenís Moon resident was a man coming out of prison after serving a 12-year sentence. On the day of his release there were three appointments he was legally mandated to keep, two with court officials and one at the welfare office. Failure to show up at any one of these three appointments would place him in violation of his release and heíd be sent back to prison.
He bent his first note on a harmonica when he was fourteen and in his early 20ís del Junco was immersed in a visual arts career.
It was Christmas Eve so most of the offices were closing at noon. Without a vehicle there was no hope of meeting these deadlines. A staff member from Ravenís Moon came and picked him up, drove him to all three appointments and found him a place to stay in one of their homes. Twelve years later he is living independently, and Ravenís Moon still gets calls from him from time to time.
There are currently over 100 people living in Ravenís Moon homes. MCC has sponsored three houses, providing homes for up to 15 people. In the sober living houses, all residents are committed to their recovery and agree to refrain from drugs and alcohol. The low barrier houses provide a safe place for people who are still using drugs or alcohol to do the hard work of changing their lives. Residents are not allowed to use in the house or on the property but they will not be kicked out for coming home under the influence. Research has shown that low barrier housing leads to higher rates of success in achieving and maintaining sobriety.
The needs in Abbotsford continue to grow. As MCC BC seeks to provide more housing opportunities, they are partnering with Abbotsford Rental Connect Initiative (ARCI) to create a registry of local landlords willing to work with MCC BC to rent suites to seniors at risk of homelessness and other people with barriers. Through this program MCC BC will guarantee the rent and provide wraparound services to help residents maintain successful tenancy.
We all need a place to belong. Getting people into a home and into a community where they have more options to participate is the first critical step on the road to sobriety, safety, and financial stability. As MCC BC continues to partner with Ravenís Moon, ARCI and other community programs, more and more people have a place to call their own and a foundation on which to build lasting change.
As Jeanette Dillabough said, ďLasting change doesnít happen on the street.Ē
For more information, visit the MCC website here.