ON THE ROAD
The Big Help
Abbotsford facility provides support services for up to 30 individuals at a time
he low-barrier housing project, Hearthstone Place, marked its first year in operation on March 1st. Despite strong opposition and concerns before opening, there have been no formal complaints lodged in the past year. On the contrary, residents have been helping keep their neighborhood clean by picking up trash and have begun the process of formally adopting the block.
There have been over 200 applications and, after a staggered intake process, Hearthstone Place has been operating at full capacity.
The 30 men and women are supported by 24/7 staff who address their individual and often complex needs including mental health, substance use, essential life skills and employability. Residents, ranging from 20 to 68 years old, define a set of goals within a two-year plan with some seeking to get jobs and move into market housing. One resident has already been able to move into her own housing.
The supportive housing project is a partnership between Abbotsford Community Services (ACS), the City of Abbotsford, and the Provincial Government. “We are extremely fortunate to have Hearthstone Place in our community to provide services and support to our city’s most vulnerable citizens,” said City of Abbotsford Mayor Henry Braun. “It is encouraging to hear how individual lives are being changed. On behalf of City Council, I would like to congratulate Hearthstone Place on their success over the past year.”
One current guest is Chuck who was formerly an award-winning mechanic before a series of unfortunate life circumstances forced him onto the street. Despite maintaining a tidy camp under an Abbotsford bridge and having a friendly relationship with local police, he felt stuck. His ID had been stolen, he was losing his vision and he was afraid of leaving his belongings unattended. One of his worst memories was being tasered in his sleep by people pretending to be the police. Now safely housed, support workers have been able to help him get glasses and new ID. He has continued to maintain a spotless living space and is close to being able to look for work again.
While individuals have complex issues, these are best addressed once they are in a stable, supported environment. While individuals have complex issues, these are best addressed once they are in a stable, supported environment.
~ Megan Capp, Manager of Hearthstone Placent
One day he hopes to return to living independently in market housing.
“Chuck is a model citizen who
highlights the importance of a housing first strategy,” says Megan Capp,
Manager of Hearthstone Place. “While individuals have complex issues,
these are best addressed once they are in a stable, supported
One of the barriers some residents face is believing they are deserving of housing, happiness and even just a regular shower. While addiction or mental health issues are some of the challenges faced, support workers also help guests with the basic life skills they will need to one day live on their own.
There is a communal kitchen at Hearthstone where residents can learn cooking skills and gather over shared meals. Everyone maintains their own small unit which comes fully furnished. The residents have been encouraged by the support from the wider community, including a local church which donated a Christmas tree and a woman who raised funds independently to put together Christmas gift bags for each resident.
Capp admits that not all stories are as positive as Chuck’s journey.
Although the shelter is
low-barrier, there are rules in place and some residents have been
evicted or voluntarily left. “We do the best we can but at the end of
the day, it’s up the to individual to accept the help. While there is no
easy solution to homelessness, we’ve seen that low-barrier housing is an
important part of the solution.”