By Mike Archer. Chad Brechin, ASCT, Building and Design Consultant and President of Abbotsford’s Integrity Design, and Barry Shantz, head of the Abbotsford chapter of the BC/Yukon Drug War Survivors (DWS) have put together a proposal for the use of a number of pieces of municipal land along Railway Ave in Abbotsford. The proposed plan would allow members of the DWS to live on a currently unused piece of municipal land under a long-term leasing arrangement in ‘Dignity Village‘ style semi-permanent homes.
The proposal would also allow members of the DWS to get out of the seemingly endless cycle of moving from ditch to ditch, being chased by the Abbotsford Police Department and City Workers. It would provide help to people who have been rejected by the care community in Abbotsford because of drug use and the behaviour that comes with it and mental illness.
Siri Bertelsen of the Economic Development Department has reviewed the plan, and is said to have described it as “refreshing and positive.” Deputy City Manager Jake Rudolph is also said to be in favour of the plan.
According to proponents of the plan, the DWS hope to use the land to pay their own way and support themselves through a number of business ventures such as recycling and the sale of firewood.
Materials for the structures to be built on the property are being donated by Ace Copper Specialists of Surrey. Despite repeated, daily attempts over the last week, by agencies who normally shun the members of the DWS, to pull the group apart and put them in a variety of shelter beds around the City, members of the DWS say they feel safer in the temporary village at Jubilee Park where they have been living since October 20th.
UPDATE FROM JUBILEE PARK: Protesters have advised Abbotsford Today that their porta-potties are being taken away and would like to know if anyone can help them access new resources.
The City of Abbotsford has applied for an injunction to forcibly remove the protesters and keep them from occupying any City parks within municipal boundaries and will be asking a judge on Monday to give that injunction legal force.
The Pivot Legal Society, which is representing the DWS on a number of civil claims and two human rights complaints against the City of Abbotsford and the Abbotsford Police Department, will be arguing against the injunction on the basis that the City and its police have, in effect, made Abbotsford into an unsafe place for citizens who suffer from mental illness, drug addiction and alcohol problems or the lack of a home by refusing to provide low barrier shelter, or access to life-saving health resources through the City’s Anti-Harm reduction Bylaw, and by using tactics such as deploying chicken feces and moving the homeless from camp to camp in a seemingly endless series of moves around the City.
In a story revealed on Abbotsford Today last summer, the City of Abbotsford used chicken feces on members of the DWS and other homeless people who were huddled in a ditch opposite the Salvation Army, which gave prior approval for the use of feces against them. The Abbotsford Police Department has admitted using pepper spray against homeless members of the DWS but has not yet announced whether they will discipline the officers involved.