By Mike Archer. Councillors John Smith and Patricia Ross should be ashamed of themselves for insulting the citizens of Abbotsford with the draft report they produced as a result of their months worth of work on the Homeless Task Force.
Except for the suggestions about the need for low-barrier housing alternatives as part of some imaginary ideal long term goal, the report reads like all of the reports John Smith brought to Abbotsford council during his years at the helm of the Abbotsford Social Development Advisory Committee (ASDAC).
Meaningless, disingenuous drivel signifying nothing.
Cover image: John Smith
The Draft Action Plan they produced contains no new information, no actual evidence or research on the homeless population of Abbotsford, and no palpable, measurable evidence that the participants did anything other than talk to one another about what a horrible job people seem to think they have all done and how they should put some pages together making it sound like they know what they are doing.
And then, of course, the evidence that they take themselves seriously – a recommendation they spend $100,000 per year (plus benefits, office costs, etc … another $75,000) of taxpayers’ money for a homeless coordinator.
Whoever applies for that job will be revealing the cost of their silence because, whatever else they may think they are doing, they will have turned their back on the homeless men and women of Abbotsford.
The report is nothing more than a series of lists of vacuous recommendations such as:
- Advocate for funding related to a range of community based outreach services including rapid rehousing; and follow‐through with the application to Fraser Health related to ACT team.
- Facilitate the coordination of outreach services within Abbotsford through monthly meetings and regular communication.
- Hire/sub‐contract a city based homelessness advocate.
- Work with partners to improve information and services for renters/tenants.
- Partner with health care workers to provide access to important services for those who are homelessness and/or at risk of homelessness
- Work with all levels of government to end the process of discharging people into homelessness from public health, justice and child welfare systems.
- Advocate for systems improvements, including assistance to gain identification and access funding, housing and programs to prevent homelessness.
- Initiate a community campaign related to implementation of this Action Plan.
What does any of this mindless bafflegab mean? Then there a series of ‘continue and expand’ suggestions which imply something is already being done, followed by a series ‘desired outcomes’ and the expectation that in three years, after spending $525,000 on the costs of one new bureaucrat to make sure they are moving towards all of their vacuous and meaningless goals, they might be ready for another report on how well they’ve all done. Has anybody even considered providing food and shelter for the destitute starving people on Gladys Avenue? I’m not even sure I can find anywhere in the report where anyone from the City would actually be required to talk to a homeless person. The Task Force didn’t meet or talk to a single homeless man, woman or child during their entire mandate.
John Smith, the man perhaps more responsible than anyone else in the room for criminalizing homelessness in Abbotsford and ruining the lives of countless men and women who live huddled in fear at the Drug War Survivors’ TeePee on Gladys Avenue, had the gall to suggest that we buy someone off from the care community, who actually dirty their hands helping the poor, to be the City’s homeless coordinator. That, Smith said, is exactly what we should be spending “our” money on.
“Our” money John?
Like the $500,000,000 of “our” money you spent, borrowed and committed to Plan A? Like the $1,000,000 of “our” money you spent on the Friendship Garden at City Hall. Or, were you thinking of the $300,000,000 you guys were going to spend on a new water supply we didn’t need.
Remember; John used to be a banker. Patty doesn’t know what the hell she’s talking about.
So when it comes to spending people’s money wisely, recent history has shown us the value of his experience. and her judgement.
Here’s some truth no one in the power structure, or any of those who are clumsily moving towards a political solution to the problem seem prepared to face.
Based on the Mennonite Central Committee’s (MCC) own flawed collection of information about the numbers of homeless people in Abbotsford we know that
There are several hundred, probably closer to 300 than 200 men and women who are homeless, at risk of homelessness and either recently off the streets or soon to be back on the streets
That number has been steadily growing and it continues to do so (there are currently 8,000 registered with the Foodbank – many of whom are, were or will become, homeless)
Between 60 and 80 percent of that huge and growing homeless population are drug addicts and Abbotsford has no way of helping, housing, sheltering or even protecting them from the police
Any plan or proposal to solve this situation that manages to ignore 60%-80% of the people affected is idiotic and no solution at all. None of the plans currently in place offers any solution to the growing human rights crisis which is festering in our midst. The inaction of some and the actions of other very highly placed, well-paid and supposedly respectable community, business and church leaders in this community have brought us here. More of the same will not get us out.
That is the ‘Coles Notes’ summary of the situation we face.
The men and women who are responsible for this unspeakable mess have just spent your money meeting for weeks and months and writing, printing, collating and publishing a report designed to let themselves off the hook. The best idea they could come up with was that we hire, from among the group of those brave citizens currently trying to help their fellow human beings, someone who will be so grateful for a middle class income that they will become one of those who know how to close their eyes and ears, speak the language of the of the public sector and enjoy a nice office at City Hall.
What little is being done now (and it is very little) is being done despite the horrendous actions of the Abbotsford Downtown Business Association (ADBA) executive, the executive of the Abbotsford Chamber of Commerce, the Abbotsford Police Department (APD), the members of the care community and City staff and politicians, who would simply prefer to treat drug addicts like lepers and fight them with lawyers and bylaws rather than help them. Even Paul MacLeod’s proposal to spend ADBA money building a community for the homeless at Valley Road includes a provision for allowing Bob Rich’s cops unfettered access to the victims of his heinous policies towards the homeless 24 hours-a-day and 7-days a week.
The drug addicts who now populate the streets, the ditches and the woods around downtown Abbotsford are the direct result of the actions, inaction and misguided beliefs of Simon Gibson, Darryl Plecas, John Smith, Bruce Beck, Bob Bos, Paul MacLeod, Tina Stewart, Patricia Ross, Bill MacGregor, Les Barkman and Bruce Banman.
Until this community faces up to what its current leaders have done in the name of their friends and neighbours; establishes, pays for and publishes an actual, academically valid, scientific, factual and peer-reviewed study by experts in dealing with marginalized people to establish who our homeless people are and what we need to do to stop this
humanitarian disaster we will continue pissing money away on studies which validate our current incompetence and ineptitude at helping
our fellow citizens and the moral bankruptcy of our current policies.
Perhaps the ultimate insult of the entire Task Force report is the tagline across the bottom of the cover …
“Abbotsford a city where everyone has a home”
P.s. To John and Patty – I know you didn’t want to dirty your hands or your designer clothes by actually meeting or (shiver) touching a homeless person but couldn’t you have done better than using a stock photo or a paid model to pose as a homeless person for the cover.[Could you homeless people move along, we have a photo shoot to do here] We’ve got hundreds of real homeless people right here in Abbotsford. Abbotsford Today has galleries of photos by Bas Stevens, Win Wachsmann, Lilly Kaetler and many others of real homeless men and women who are being chased, evicted, evacuated and shuffled about the City all the time. You should meet one or two of them. You might find it harder to treat them the way you do.
See the City of Abbotsford’s website for the report and presentations from the Task Force: