By James Breckenridge. War? Terrorism?
I stopped in for a coffee, but as soon as I stepped through the door I felt compelled to play Bingo. So I grabbed a pair of cards and joined in the next game.
Which I won.
Looking over the prizes a new tarp (for camping) spoke up and said it was what I was suppose to choose – so I did.
Sitting back down I found I had no interest in more Bingo so I started writing about the inadequacy of ‘April Fool’s Day’ and the overwhelming need for a ‘Stupid’s Day’.
When the time for smoke break arrived I asked if anyone had a need for the tarp. “Yes” said a voice from the doorway behind me.
While the gentleman was eating his daily meal (lunch at the Meal Center) the city had stopped by and, in accordance with their current scorched earth homeless policy, had misappropriated his and another gentleman’s belongings into a city garbage truck.
“ASDAC [Abbotsford Social Development Advisory Committee] was created in 2006 through an extensive consultation with community and social agencies……”
The question is not simply When or How was ASDAC created but WHY?
In the two years it took Abbotsford City Council to go from council’s decision to create ASDAC to ASDAC’s first meeting council’s reply to Abbotsford’s increasing homelessness, the need for affordable housing and associated social issues was “We cannot do anything until ASDAC tells us what to do”. But ASDAC doesn’t exist! “We cannot do anything until ASDAC exists and tells us what to do”. That irrational argument bought city council two years of doing nothing.
In the case of homelessness that irrational argument bought city council two years to continue their irrational and pointless policy of chasing the homeless from spot to spot around Abbotsford – until the homeless being pursued by the city, arrived back at the spot the pursuit had begun.
Since even politicians can only drag their feet so long, eventually a point where council needed to give [at least] the impression of taking action was reached, council appointed citizens to ASDAC and ASDAC was born.
Instead of fading away after ASDAC was finally formed, the advocates seeking support and housing for the homeless continued to meet and pursue support and housing funding from the provincial and federal governments and to raise the level of awareness in the community on issues related homelessness.
When it was decided ASDAC needed a housing subcommittee those who were pursuing housing were invited to attend sub-committee meetings, which often featured city council’s representative explaining why it was not possible to do this … or that … or much of anything beyond talking.
Two items stick out. Well, three … OK, let’s make it four and cut it off there.
The first was city council loudly blowing their own horn, proclaiming how wondrous the city’s misnamed affordable housing project, Harmony Flex Housing, was. The project was an 11 townhouse development using city property to reduce the cost of “homeownership units” to lower the down payment and income needed to qualify for a mortgage.
Misnamed because this project was about homeownership for people already housed and not providing affordable housing for the homeless or those at risk of becoming homeless.
City property, help and timeliness as opposed to city hall’s usual foot dragging and obstacle raising behaviours, effort, support, action … spent on homeownership not affordable housing.
The second item that sticks out was the call by BC Housing for proposals to build a men’s housing project and a women’s housing project with the province putting up $22 million ($11 million for each project) in capital funding for the construction of the buildings and an additional $650,000 (adjusted for inflation) to fund programs to provide the needed supports to aid the residents in getting their lives together.
City council’s actions resulted in the loss of the $11 million capital funding and $650,000 per year for the men’s housing – and gave every evidence of blowing the woman’s project. However the prospect of having to explain why city council chased away $22 million in provincial capital contributions apparently provided sufficient motivation for council to rezone the property for the women’s project.
Council insisted that the $11 million for the men’s project was only ‘delayed’ – at this point in time, apparently indefinitely delayed.
It was very hard work by several of the self invited members of the ASDAC housing subcommittee that brought about the province’s call for proposals to access the $22 million in capital funding and addition funding for support programs. Following the success in obtaining $22 million of provincial funding council decided the housing subcommittee was unnecessary.
The third item that sticks out was city council’s favourite excuse for failing to address homeless issues and for why ideas, proposals and suggestions from the housing subcommittee vis-à-vis homelessness and housing could not be done – poverty.
Yet the city had $1.5+ million for a garden; $100 million to build an arena for a professional hockey team to play in; $ millions for yearly subsidies to the owners of the team; $ millions more in yearly subsidies for operating expenses to operate the hockey rink for said professional hockey team and its ownership; and $17.5 million for the Y to create competition for city facilities, thereby reducing the revenue of city facilities and creating the need for additional subsidies by taxpayers.
Which brings us to item 4 – the land the old Abbotsford Hospital was built on, now sitting there empty.
When the new hospital opened using the old hospital was advocated by numerous groups who stated the old hospital would provide a variety of facilities with which to address a number of homeless, substance use, mental health and the growing issues related to poverty.
When Fraser Health’s red herring – asbestos – did not appear to be carrying the day (not surprising since, as anyone who watches Mike Holmes is aware, asbestos left undisturbed is not a problem. Asbestos becomes a problem when you disturb it by … tearing down a building containing asbestos) Fraser Health pledged that significant affordable housing would be part of redevelopment of the site.
What has happened to the affordable housing promised, solemnly sworn to, by Fraser Health? Why did Abbotsford City Council sign off on Fraser Health’s failure to provide the promised affordable housing by committing to provide a $17.5 million subsidy to the YMCA?
Homelessinabbotsford.com was created in 2005 to share, to communicate, the insights, experience and knowledge gained as a result of experiencing homelessness as a consequence of decades of slowly intensifying mental illness; to advocate for rational responses, actions and behaviours to the issues arising from homelessness, mental illness, substance use and poverty; and to share the outrage my accountant’s soul (having become a Chartered Accountant in 1981) at the waste, the pointless waste, in continuously doing the same thing over and over and over – hoping for a different result.
Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”
– George Santayana (Jorge Agustín Nicolás Ruiz de Santayana y Borrás)
One of the first, if not the first, items the housing subcommittee of the Abbotsford Social Development Advisory Committee advised city council was that chasing the homeless, in particular the hard to house homeless, from camp to camp around the city time after time was pointless when there was no housing available to house them.
In response to the ASDAC housing sub-committee on this it was decided that city staff would take the belongings of the homeless to the works yard and the homeless would be able to make arrangements to pick up their property or where it would be delivered to.
Of course the homeless, having no place to go would use their property to set up a new camp in another location.
Which at some point would be found, the belongings of the homeless taken to the works yard, the belongings would then be picked up or delivered to the person who they belonged to who would … use the belongings to set an new camp. Which at some point would be found, the belongings of the homeless taken to the works yard, the belongings would then be picked up or delivered to the person who they belonged to who would … use the belongings to set an new camp. Which at some point would be found, the belongings of the homeless taken to the works yard, the belongings would then be picked up or delivered to the person who they belonged to who would … use the belongings to set an new camp. Which at some point would be found, the belongings of the homeless taken to the works yard, the belongings would then be picked up or delivered to the person who they belonged to who would … use the belongings to set an new camp. Which at some point would be found, the belongings of the homeless taken to the works yard, the belongings would then be picked up or delivered to the person who they belonged to who would … use the belongings to set an new camp. Which at some point would be found, the belongings of the homeless taken to the works yard, the belongings would then be picked up or delivered to the person who they belonged to who would … use the belongings to set an new camp. Which at some point would be found, the belongings of the homeless taken to the works yard, the belongings would then be picked up or delivered to the person who they belonged to who would … use the belongings to set an new camp. And so on and so on and so on …
A process that would make a fair definition of frustrating (in addition to pointless); it is hardly surprising that over time frustration has caused this purpose to deteriorate into the current policy of tossing the belongings into a City of Abbotsford garbage truck.
Under the old policy one of the homeless was able to go to the works yard and rescue his cat from where it had been trapped in his tent by city staff. These days the cat would have run out of lives. Sadly, a cat getting killed as a result of the City’s new scorched earth policy would do more to end the current garbage truck policy than the fact this policy will at some point result in the death of a person. Albeit the person is a member of the homeless community.
At least until he can find another patch of bush to pitch his tent in – until he is rousted from the new location…… and so on, and so on, and so on.
**Shake my head** The question is where else do they go? They are homeless with no other choices.
Reality is that the homeless do not just cease to exist when displaced they just have to find another spot, then another … and so on, and so on, and so on. You can displace and move them along all you want, but until you begin to deal with the underlying causes and they have housing of some form they are going to be an Unsightly Sight.
… chasing the homeless from place to place around the city until they were back to where the chase had begun and then beginning the chase again was pointless when there was a lack of viable housing options for the homeless.
“The City cleaned out my camp and left me with nothing to survive with but what I am wearing.” … silence … “James — Why would the City want to cut a man’s chances of survival so low?”
On my way to lunch on May 4, 2013 I spotted a tent. I commented to a friend who is homeless that someone should warn the owner of the tent about the city and their garbage truck. “It is Saturday and the office is closed” was the reply evidencing the homeless adapting to the reality of the city’s behaviour.
If only the city would be so open to adapting behaviour to reality. Until action is taken to provide housing or other viable options the homeless have no option but to go back to the streets
War: noun 5. active hostility or contention; conflict;
Terrorism: noun 1. the use of threats to intimidate or coerce, especially for political purposes. 2. The state of fear and submission produced by terrorization.
Cover photo from The Liberty Beat