By Mike Archer. In an apparent break with the City of Abbotsford’s long-held legal position, Deb Lowell, of the Abbotsford Salvation Army, admitted in a story in the Abbotsford News published Saturday, May 10, that Abbotsford has nowhere to house much of its homeless population.
The City of Abbotsford told a BC Supreme Court Justice in December 2013 that the City has enough space to house its homeless population in order to get the judge to issue and enforce an eviction notice against the Abbotsford Chapter of the BC/Yukon Drug War Survivors (DWS) who were protesting against the City and the APD in an encampment at Jubilee Park.
After getting the eviction notice, the City pressed all of the high barrier shelters in Abbotsford, including the Salvation Army, to put emergency weather condition procedures into effect and accept all of the protesters whom they would normally not allow in their shelters.
Within days most of those accepted so that the TV cameras would go away and the protest could be cleaned up were back on the streets , many of them living at a new protest site opposite the Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) building on Gladys Avenue.
“While there is nowhere currently for us to house these individuals, the goal is not to move them along, but to help them to be in a better space,” Lowell told the News.
The Pivot Legal Society is currently representing members of the DWS in a number of court cases and human rights cases and is engaged in a legal battle with the City of Abbotsford over the City’s attempt to ban homeless people from all public parks based on its contention that Abbotsford has plenty of shelter space for all of its homeless population.
Not only does the City have no low barrier shelters, it turned down $15.3 million in assured funding for a proposed low barrier shelter in February of this year based on Mayor Banman’s deciding vote.
“APD police chief Bob Rich’s policy of ‘disperse and displace,’ Mayor Banman’s stated preference for treating drug addicts like pedophiles, and Abbotsford’s scheme to cleanse itself of the homeless through its bylaws and policies may be entering a new phase,” says Abbotsford DWS founder Barry Shanz.
“We may be at a turning point. It has taken some hard, hard endurance by the DWS membership to get us to this point. If Deb Lowell’s admission that Abbotsford has nowhere to house many of its homeless population is an indication that the City is prepared to abandon its law and order approach to social issues, we welcome her contribution to the struggle,” he added.
The City of Abbotsford is attempting to have the courts put off any trials on its court cases with its homeless citizens until after next November’s municipal election leaving the homeless on the street fro another winter before they can get their day in court.
After the now infamous Chicken Manure Incident in June 2013, emails published on Abbotsford Today revealed the Abbotsford Salvation Army had known about and been in agreement with the chicken manure dump to get rid of the homeless camped across the street from the Sally Ann. Other emails published on Abbotsford Today revealed a demeaning and insensitive attitude to the homeless by APD chief constable Bob Rich and his senior officers.