Homeless advocates are hoping doghouse-sized shelters will provide a short-term housing solution this winter in Abbotsford, a city that’s already getting a reputation for treating its most vulnerable citizens like animals.

Pastor Ward Draper of the 5-and-2 Ministries said Abbotsford’s lack of action in providing shelters or social housing has left them no choice but to take matters into their own hands.

“It’s a huge problem,” he said. “We have to come up with these creative ideas, think outside the box.”

Draper’s organization has teamed up with the Fraser Valley Atheists, Skeptics and Humanists in hopes of having 40 plywood micro-shelters on the streets before the end of fall, as the streets become barely livable.

Homeless man Jesse Sidhu has already been living in a prototype for five days, and told CTV News it’s much better than sleeping in a tent.

“It’s cozy. Keeps the heat in well so it’s warm at night,” Sidhu said. “Really, that’s all that matters.”

Not everyone at Sidhu’s camp has been impressed, however, with one person making the obvious comparison to outdoor animal kennels.

Draper acknowledged the criticism but said the design hasn’t been perfected yet.

Mayor Bruce Banman told CTV News he’s glad advocates are bringing forward new ideas but he doesn’t have enough information to endorse the micro-shelter plan.

“Anything you do, it has to be safe,” Banman said. “It’s those unforeseen consequences of decisions. So we think we’re doing a smart idea, but is it safe?”

Advocates of the project argue waiting for bureaucratic approval in a city like Abbotsford would simply take too long.

Abbotsford currently has about 200 homeless residents, and city staff, police and the business community have all been accused of antagonizing them over the past year.

Over a three-month period starting in April, the city’s police force allegedly harassed homeless people a dozen times, damaging tents and pepper spraying them to make them uninhabitable.

In June, city workers used chicken manure to drive homeless residents away from a camp, allegedly resulting in an eye infection for one man.

And in July, the Abbotsford Downtown Business Association circulated a petition against a proposed social housing project expected to take at least 20 men off the street. It was signed by 2,000 people.

As cramped as micro-shelters may be, Sidhu told CTV News he appreciates the effort.

“It was something that was built with the homeless in mind. I haven’t seen anybody else do so much.”

With a report from CTV British Columbia’s Michele Brunoro