The Teepee – A Sign Of Pride, Defiance And Civic Embarrassment

By Mike Archer. The Teepee currently sitting across the street from the big new Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) building is about to be forcibly moved – to where …
no one knows. But moved it will be since those who want it moved have cops with guns working for them.

Photo by JD Archer

After forcibly removing the Drug War Survivors who were living in Jubilee Park from easy public and media view, just two days before Christmas, the City of Abbotsford then gave notice to the occupants of the Teepee to move out of their current location by January 2nd.

They are still there – since they have nowhere to go – and word on the street is that the City is waiting until Monday, January 6, to send in the cops.

They will be greeted with the same question which greets them every time they use the Abbotsford Shuffle to move these citizens around – “Where do you want us to go?”

And they will be met with the same dumb and determined looking faces with the only answer Abbotsford has ever come up with – “I dunno. Not here.”

And they will move again.

This time maybe 50 feet towards downtown, right on the edge of the sidewalk by the tracks …

Maybe they’ll move to a patch of grass near the little municipal park welcoming people to the most caring city in the world at the corner of George Ferguson and Gladys …

Or maybe they’ll move up closer to their friends at the Happy Tree where the City and the Sally Ann covered them in chicken shit just six months ago …

For all of the taxpayers’ money which has been spent (guesses vary between $50,000 and $250,000) over the last six months alone, we could have addressed either of the two proposals before the City to provide shelter and security to the homeless people of Abbotsford who are not welcome at the high barrier shelters provided by the province and private sector.

The City is not talking about or telling anybody that the private sector now has stepped up to help the citizens no one else wants to help. Property has been identified and offered. Building materials have been constructed and can be completed in weeks. Workable business plans have been struck and potential partners found who will gladly make both of the proposals before the City work.

And yet nobody at the City is talking about either proposal …

The Draper/Gruban Proposal

The project put together by Jeff Gruban of the Abbotsford Atheists, Skeptics and Humanists and Ward Draper of The 5 and 2 Ministries is sitting in limbo waiting for Mayor Banman to stop dithering and playing political games.

The property owner and the proponents have met with the Mayor and are ready to go as soon as somebody at City Hall is prepared to stop wasting money on sending Abbotsford Police Department (APD) officers in to solve the homeless crisis and begin making a solution actually work.

The proposal involves a Dignity-Village-style housing project on private land along the Mission Highway near the recycling plnt which would accommodate a variety and number of homeless people who do not fit into the restrictive lifestyles of Abbotsford’s high barrier shelters.

Banman was so impressed with the idea initially that he promised bus service to the project if Draper and Gruban could pull it off. They appear to have pulled it off but now the Mayor’s bravura seems to have tempered dramatically.

Nobody can tell whether Banman is frozen by archaic beliefs, monumental incompetence or abject fear. All he seems capable of doing is letting those trying to do something about the problem know that, whatever anybody tells you about Abbotsford Homeless Crisis:

a) There isn’t one
b) It isn’t his responsibility
c) Homeless people with drug, alcohol or mental illness issues are like pedophiles and should be locked up

Thank you Bruce. Your inability to understand your surroundings, take responsibility and lead your community have been duly noted.

The DWS Proposal

Forget the fact that the new Manager of the Economic Development Department, Siri Bertelsen, has reviewed their proposal, and is said to have described it as “refreshing and possible.”

Forget the fact that Deputy City Manager Jake Rudolph is also said to be in favour of the plan and thinks it is the best proposal the City has on the table.

Chad Brechin, ASCT, Building and Design Consultant and President of Abbotsford’s Integrity Design put the proposal together with Barry Shantz, head of the Drug War Survivors, and everyone who is aware of it is amazed at how well-thought-out it is.

In a nutshell the proposal involves moving the ‘unhousable’ homeless – those who won’t follow the Sally Ann’s restrictive and religious programs, or fit in with the ‘acceptable’ homeless which the City and the provincial politicians like Mike de Jong, Simon Gibson or Darryl Plecas are prepared to finance, and who suffer from mental illness, addiction and alcohol dependence – to a number of municipal properties, already identified and proposed, along railway Avenue where they can live and run their recycling and wood selling businesses to help support themselves.

The donated lumber which was assembled by volunteers in order to build the fortress in the parking lot beside Jubilee Park last Wednesday night is all carefully cut and prefabricated to function as floors for the 30 homes they hope to build when the City is prepared to make a deal on the land.

What To Do In 2014

The provincial and national media have all got the script. Every time the City attempts to force the hard-to-house citizens of Abbotsford – for they are citizens of Abbotsford – into submission and off of public land, the camera crews and reporters come to report on the latest idiocy coming out of Abbotsford and the world sighs in disbelief that a Canadian city in the year 2014 can’t get its act together and do something right for a change.

If Banman and his administration would simply get out of the way and let those who have figured out how to solve the issue do so instead of insisting on sending the cops in to move everybody around 50 ft at a time … I’m getting sick and tired of saying the obvious …

These people are human beings and fellow citizens not a PR crisis to be managed with other people’s money. But to use the cold calculated logic the city seems to understand – you could have paid for a bus route from Chilliwack to Abbotsford and Langley and back for UFV with the money that has been wasted showing Abbotsford’s weakest citizens who is boss.

Cities like Langley, Chilliwack, Mission or Surrey don’t seem to be be living with the number of visible tents and homeless camps peppered throughout their communities nor the provincial, national and international embarrassment due to the policies and decisions of our civic officials, politicians, police officers, church and community leaders. That is unique to Abbotsford. That level of failure on the part of a decade’s worth of community leaders is peculiar to Abbotsford.

In 2014 can we please end the Abbotsford Shuffle and let those who are prepared to come to the table with solutions get on with solving the Abbotsford Homeless Crisis and have those who would rather use the cops to do the job step aside and stop spending money on something that doesn’t work?

Join the discussion 16 Comments

  • Deceit in Drugs says:

    You are right, Mayor Banman needs to stop playing “politics” and
    look at the needs of this city and it’s citizens as a whole and
    not just listen to a select group, some of the same people involved
    with the Abbotsford Chamber of Commerce and ADBA in bringing us
    Plan A and the promise of profits and quality of life.

    This group involves select developers/investors in and around
    Historic Abbotsford, who are past & present members on the Abbotsford Chamber of Commerce and ADBA and have the support of
    several members on the present executive committees and see the
    homeless as a deterrent to realizing their ‘Yaletown’ in east Abbotsford.

    Mayor Banman is a past Abbotsford Chamber exec. member, John Smith is the council rep. for the Chamber and Bill Macgregor is the council rep for the ADBA.

    The homeless problem involves these people who have the money
    to realize growth in the city and Mayor and select Council, who work
    closely with these people, many on the city committees related to development and trying control what goes on in the city in terms of growth .

    The homeless are caught up in the politics of these two groups
    and the rest of the Abbotsford taxpayers are left to watch in horror and
    dismay from the sidelines as Mayor take desperate measures to rid the
    old downtown of the homeless.

    Mayor and Council do not want to go against the push from this
    select group of developers/investors in this city … and I say ‘select” because there are many developers in this city, who provide valuable housing and services for Abbotsford, without being involved in city politics.

    It is time for Mayor and Council show real leadership and do what is right for this city..try to build an inclusive city!

  • The Editor says:

    Wendy Bales Says:
    Sad, and a great waste of time and tax money that could have been better spent on solutions, but unfortunately it is no real surprise to me. While as a Director at the FVRD I have noticed time and again that they can choose to not enforce bylaws with friends or rich corporations but may choose to go after some of those that can least afford to fight back.

    Too often when deciding to enforce a bylaw or not, the bottom line question is not whether it is right or just, but whether they can win in court (assuming that they want to in the first place). The point is that they can choose to enforce a bylaw or not.

    • Jeff says:

      Im not sure what your point is Ray. It sounds like you do not agree with the Dignity Village concept in Portland. The two anecdotes in the article you attached may certainly have involved homeless people but there was no connection with Dignity Village or its residents. Dignity Village is a low barrier housing concept which began in 2000. This year the city of Portland just renewed their lease for another 3 years. They can accomadate 60 people and have housed almost 1000 people since it began.

    • Deceit in Drugs says:

      Scaring away tourism..have you driven along the railway tracks north and south in East Abbotsford and seen the existing campsites, garbage
      strewn roadside and in and around the Sumas Way overpass?

      If anything will scare away tourists, it’s the numerous abandoned sites
      not cleaned up by the city

      Many of the homeless have mental health issues and/or addiction, which lead to need to hoard, collect items, which we call garbage.

      The purpose of a permanent site is to prevent campsites
      being set up everywhere around businesses and allow the
      city to have control by providing dumpsters and garbage pickup
      and porta potties at a minimum.

      This gives the homeless a small amount of respect and it will
      also help reduce abandoned campsites and need for massive
      campsite cleanups at taxpayers expense, only to have them shuffled another few feet down the road.

      In addition, businesses will not have to constantly phone city hall to
      have the homeless moved and campsites cleanup, in order to be
      able to attract tourists into Historic Downtown.

      The homeless need to locate near the services and City Hall should’ve thought about that, before they approved the location of Salvation Army on Gladys Rd. in a strip zoned commercial/industrial.

      Lastly, I am astounded that your only focus is on attracting tourists.

      Do you really think the mockery made of the city by City Hall’s chicken manure incident and move of homeless in extreme weather conditions
      has created a positive image for the city. Think again!

      Furthermore, it has made many Abbotsford citizens embarrassed to say they live in Abbotsford, due poor handling of homeless situation, never mind, homeless discouraging tourists from coming to Abbotsford.

  • The Editor says:

    Mike Archer Says:
    Nice Ray. Helping homeless people leads to crime eh and scares away tourists? They are people Ray. What’s your suggestion? Don’t help them?

    From facebook:

  • The Editor says:

    Mike Archer Says: You are so violently against treating them like humans what do you think we should do?

    From facebook:

  • The Editor says:

    Ray Farness Says:
    Kingsway cleanup may point the way towards solving Surrey’s Newton problems

    • Jeff says:

      Ray, this article refers to the cities attempt to deal with crime not homelessness. it is not relavent to this story. I would be interested in hearing your solutions to our homeless problem in Abbotsford. I would also be interested in hearing your thoughts on our cities use of our money in dealing with this issue. This story has estimated that up to $250,000 has been spent since the summer chasing these people around. What has the taxpayer gotten for that money ? How have the homeless people been helped? Will be be having this conversation next year about another $250,000 being wasted?

  • The Editor says:

    Mike Archer Says:
    Ray we all know that homeless, drug addicted, alcohol dependent, mentally ill people don’t live the Polly Anna life you seem to think they ought. What would you like us to do about it other that sic the cops on them?

    So you think we should send them over to Newton. Is that it?

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