On Monday, January 13, Bruce Banman told CKNW that beds have been found for some of the homeless at the protest camp that was set up and then dismantled in Jubilee park.“We have sent two children — two young youth, rather — back home to Calgary. A couple of people went into rehab, is my understanding, and a couple of the ladies found some help through the Elizabeth Fry Society, is my understanding. The city is working with the support groups that we have to try and find beds for people, one person at a time. Of the 12 homeless that were found in the protest camp, there were many protesters that had beds. Of the 12 that were actually homeless we did manage to find warm beds for nine of the 12, three refused,” said Banman.
In the narrative which Banman and the City used in order to get an injunction against the homeless men and women of the Abbotsford Chapter of the BC/Yukon Drug War Survivors (DWS) who mounted the Standoff in Jubilee protest, there are, apparently plenty of shelter spaces for the homeless of Abbotsford. There are just a few of them who refuse to be housed. The rest, or so the story goes, are professional demonstrators or from from somewhere else.
On Christmas Eve the City forced the Sally Ann and other high barrier shelters to accept homeless people who suffer from mental illness, drug addiction and alcohol dependence over Christmas, in order, it seems, to prove the mayor right … at least while the TV cameras were still on, and clear out the park.
Showing an astounding lack of understanding of how homelessness works, Banman seems to have thought that legally forcing people to accept shelter means they will stay there. He seems to have missed the part where none of the Abbotsford’s high barrier shelter are set up to accept or help Abbotsford citizens who suffer from mental illness, drug addiction or alcohol dependence.
Nor, does it appear, do they particularly want to.
That means, Bruce, that, even if you force high barrier shelters to accept them in a pinch, they won’t be there for long.
Well … here we are a month later and everything is back to normal (for Abbotsford). All of the homeless camps in the ditches, along the railways, on the streets and in the bushes all over the City are full again. Just take a drive along Gladys Avenue one of these days and you’ll find camps running all the way along from the other side of George Ferguson Way almost up to the Abbotsford News building.
Look along the railway corridor and you’ll find more. The woods up behind Save-On-Foods, in East Abbotsford and elsewhere in the City are full again.
The Teepee at the new Abbotsford MCC Dignity Village is the centerpiece for a growing collection of tents and makeshift homes as, just as they did in Jubilee Park, Abbotsford’s unhousable homeless citizens gather once again for security and companionship.
Despite what the City told the judge, Abbotsford’s high barrier shelters don’t seem to have managed to do anything but put a temporary dent in the growing army of homeless men and women who can’t find shelter.
The judge’s written reasons for his judgement are due to be released sometime in the coming weeks and it will be an interesting read for anyone following the City’s legal attempts to keep homeless people off of any park or piece of municipal property anywhere in the City because, so their argument goes, there are more than enough shelters spaces available already.
The hundreds of people living in the ditches and on the side of the road throughout the City seem to prove otherwise.
We took a drive and dropped in on some of the folks we met living in the growing number of Gladys Avenue Homeless Camps and took photos of the others. We took our cameras with us but didn’t disturb the folks at the MCC Dignity Village as they’ve already been bothered, filmed and photographed enough.
Mayor Banman is going to have a hard time explaining where all the homeless people came from with all of the available shelter spaces he told the judge about.
Gladys Avenue Homeless Camps
Photos by Mike and JD Archer