MCC photo/Luke Tilley

Through services and programs such as the weekly BBQ on Thursdays (pictured), MCC BC’s Homelessness Prevention and Outreach program aims to create an open and welcoming space for all.

They say that home is where your story begins.

When you don’t 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, “235,000 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 BC’s 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 Raven’s 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 MCC’s 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.D’s are also issued.

MCC BC’s partnership with Raven’s 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. Raven’s 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.

Raven’s 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. Raven’s 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 Raven’s Moon, the residents are good neighbors.

One past Raven’s 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 he’d be sent back to prison.

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 Raven’s 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 Raven’s Moon still gets calls from him from time to time.

There are currently over 100 people living in Raven’s 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 Raven's Moon and the City of Abbotsford  on an initiative called Homelessness Abbotsford Rental Connect (HARC). HARC will work with landlords to create a registry of landlords willing to make their rentals available, and ensure that wrap around services and rental assistance are provided in an effort to help residents maintain successful tenancy.  Service Canada and PGNETA have provided funds for this pilot program.

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 Raven’s Moon 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, “Lasting change doesn’t happen on the street.”

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