By Mike Archer. Abbotsford Councillor Henry Braun as much as kicked off the 2014 municipal election Monday night with a definitive speech on the Abbotsford Homeless Crisis.
Mayor Banman as much as conceded defeat by stepping in, going against the will of the majority of council, and turning down $15.3 million dollars in provincial funding for the smallest supportive housing project BC Housing has ever entertained.
Despite Councillor John Smith’s memorable “I used to be a banker” speech and his statement that, “If these people’s fear’s (ADBA) are irrational it doesn’t matter,” it was Braun who spoke for the people of Abbotsford tonight.
“If we really want there to be an end to the ‘Abbotsford Shuffle’ this will be a good start.”
That’s how Councillor Henry Braun began his speech to his fellow councillors and the 100 or so people in the council chambers.
He beseeched his fellow councillors and Mayor Banman, “Please don’t do this. We’re going to take a giant step backward if you say no to this proposal.”
And ‘No’ they said.
Not the majority of council. That vote came out 4 – 3 in favour of the ACS proposal. No they voted it down because Banman, in an unprecedented break with Robert’s Rules (other than his own track record of breaking Robert’s Rules, stepped in to make it a tie vote thus destroying more than six years of work and throwing away some $15.3 million dollars in funding from the provincial government to make a small dent in the Abbotsford Homeless Crisis.
Braun leaned on his faith saying that a city with no room for the wish of God is an empty city. He spoke of his belief that faith interacts with good communities.
“As a city grows its elected officials must allow for social services and housing to grow in the areas of great need,” he said.
Braun told council the city and the community of Abbotsford were at a pivotal point in their history. With most of our population two to three pay cheques away from the street, he told Councillors John Smith, Les Barkman, Bill MacGregor and Mayor Banman, the manner in which we treat our most vulnerable is an essential measure of our place in the world.
“If we turn this down, what will we say to the homeless men and women tomorrow. What will we tell our children or our grandchildren when they ask us why we did this?”
According to Braun the council of Abbotsford must rise to the challenge of the homeless crisis the city faces and respond to the citizens of the city who, according to Braun, are looking for someone to show the leadership required to begin to tackle Abbotsford’s Homeless Crisis.
“We need to move into the 21st Century,” he told his fellow councillors to no avail. Braun, who is the only councillor to have actually met with the homeless people who were protesting in Jubilee Park, said, “They are not scary people. I’ve been to every camp along Gladys Avenue and I have spoken with these men and women individually. I’ll tell you – if I had their stories … I’d be on drugs.”
Braun, who visited Campbell River in January to have a look at their attempt to deal with their homeless situation, is the only member of City Council to have visited the homeless men and women of the Abbotsford Chapter of the BC/Yukon Drug War Survivors (DWS) during the Standoff in Jubilee which was shut down Christmas Eve by an injunction the City obtained based on statements made to a BC Supreme Court Justice to the effect that there are plenty of available shelter spaces available in Abbotsford.
The DWS have a proposal, of which City sraff are aware and have described as “refreshing and possible” which they are hoping to get to discuss with the City sometime in 2014.
Neither proposal seems to be making any headway at the City of Abbotsford despite both groups being ready to go as soon as someone at the City of Abbotsford begins talking about the proposals.
The protesters from the Standoff in Jubilee have moved down to Gladys Avenue in what has been called the ‘MCC Dignity Village‘ opposite the Mennonite Central Committee’s (MCC) new building on Gladys.
The City’s claim that there are plenty of shelter spaces available in Abbotsford is wearing a little thin with every passing day as the number of homeless men and women unable to find shelter congregate at the feet of the MCC.
Under Mayor Banman’s leadership the City has engaged in eight lawsuits and two civil rights complaints with the DWS and the Pivot Legal Society. Those cases are scheduled to go ahead in the coming months.