Dear Mayor and City Council:
It is with dismay, disappointment and utter disbelief with what is happening in Abbotsford, “City of Character” with regard to the Homeless persons of [Abbotsford I am writing].
1) When will city council vote on ACS’s proposed 20 suite building for men who are homeless and at risk for homelessness?
2) Is today’s report by Abbotsford Today accurate? “The City of Abbotsford will be seeking today to have a BC supreme court judge give them the power and authority to use their police in order to use force against the homeless protesters of the Abbotsford BC/Yukon Drug War Survivors (DWS) and have a number of them locked up for as many as two years in jail.
The City is also seeking to have all public park land in the City included in an order that would apply to any and all homeless people in Abbotsford who are caught anywhere but in the City’s ditches and under its overpasses.”
Mayor, and Councillors: I have been an Abbotsford citizen since birth in July, 1957. I have never witnessed such violence in Abbotsford against the most vulnerable among us. On Thursday, December 12, I visited the site (again), and spoke with some of the campers (again). When I arrived on-site at 4pm, I saw city workers galore on the site, city trucks (one with a crane) coming and going, as well as police cars, and officers strolling about. As day turned to night, I had a dejavu moment: I recalled my father, an exemplary Abbotsford citizen, who himself was homeless and displaced in Germany post WWII, telling me the story of his imprisonment in an american prisoner-of-war camp. How, at nighttime, the prisoners scrambled to sleep as far away from the edge of the field on which they were housed, because those who slept on the edge were at risk for being shot dead — if only for moving during their sleep, those movements perceived by armed guards as attempted escape, punishable by execution.
I cannot tell you how deeply disturbed and saddened I was, and became even more so when word came that spotlights were now being shone on the campers 24 hours a day, and the site barricaded with concrete barriers. As if the homeless inside are equivalent to the Bacon Brothers, who also received similiar treatment. As if the homeless, most of them drug addicts, many with underlying mental illness, and therefore not capable of logic such as those who are “well”, including city council and current mayor.
HOW CAN THIS BE HAPPENING IN ABBOTSORD, DURING ADVENT SEASON, IN THE YEAR 2013???
How will this help anyone, least of all the most vulnerable?
How will this build respect for our elected city officials whose salaries our tax dollars pay. I ask you all to STOP this show immediately.
I also wish you to know, that should you arrest any of the homeless persons in the camp, I will be standing with them, and know of others who are also willing to do so.
I have been inside the camp, on my own. I have brought in coffee, and hot meals, and warm clothes for some of the people there. I have witnessed others — MANY — do the same. Not because we support the method in which this cry for help is being sent to people in power, but because I/WE understand why it has come to this.
But never, not once, could I and others who continue to interact with the campers and other homeless persons of Abbotsford — to dignify their existence, such as it is, because each has a story, and each has worth and no matter how broken their lives are, something to offer others — never could I/we have imagined the city would stoop to this level of treatment, in full view, of our most vulnerable citizens.
The people inside the camp are for the most part gentle souls, mastered by their addictions and their mental illnesses. You, city councillors, and mayor, are not. And yet, this reaction brings into question your qualifications to represent the wishes of Abbotsford citizens such as myself. And I speak for MANY others.
I beg you; stop this action now. Remove the police presence, the barriers, and stop seeking permission to criminalize the homeless. My fear is that this will escalate into physical violence. The campers are already at the mercy of a person who is mentally frail and at high risk for acting out in irreparable manner. I do NOT support the “leader’s” behaviour, and method of operation. My primary concern is the campers; they are victims of their diseases, and on their behalf, I am asking you to stop the madness and degradation at once.
Again, and for the record: If you arrest the homeless persons camped in and around Jubilee Park, I will stand with them, and put out my hands to be cuffed, and go with them to jail.
Elsie K Neufeld