By Mike Archer. Before the Abbotsford Homeless Crisis spins out of control it has to be said that there are now three separate and distinct agendas.
They have all got long histories in this community and they have all come to a head at the same time due to the unforgiveable actions of the City of Abbotsford during the now infamous Abbotsford Chicken Manure Homeless Incident.
The Abbotsford Community Services (ACS) Supportive Housing Proposal
The ACS proposal, which the City of Abbotsford has supported and participated in along with the ACS and BC Housing for over five years is a limited but significant attempt to house 20 men who cannot receive housing support from Abbotsford’s traditional, religious and morally-based solutions which require those who are seeking help to abandon their addictions or continue to live on the streets.
Despite all Mayor Banman’s protests about the need for ‘other levels of government to come to the table’ – BC Housing has come to the table with $2.4 Million to build the project and $215,000 a year in operating costs.
The Abbotsford Downtown Business Association (ADBA) objects because the City will have to rezone one parcel of land within the ADBA zoned area in order to allow the project to go ahead and the ADBA feel that, since they moved into the area and committed their funds and labour on the basis of the promise that certain institutions would never be allowed in the area – one of them being a Supportive Housing Project like ACS is proposing – they are being wronged.
One group which has agreed with the ADBA and gone so far as to suggest they receive compensation if the City goes ahead with the ACS proposal is the Abbotsford Drug War Survivors.
A Dignity Village Style Housing Solution
Organizations like The 5 and 2 Ministries and the Abbotsford Atheists, Skeptics and Humanists are working on some possible solutions which may include temporary shelters on wheels, a piece of property where homeless people can be allowed to live free from the endless police harassment the City has been meting out for most of the last decade based loosely on the Dignity Village example from Portland.
A variety of men, women, individuals, organizations and politicians are discussing this option and trying to work together to come up with some sort of option that will allow the homeless to come in off of the streets and stop running afoul of the City and the police because they have nowhere to live.
This is the solution the largest number of people, organizations and politicians seem predisposed to accept and the most likely to get support from those in the community who want to find a way of dealing with homeless citizens that is different from the way the City and the police were dealing with them until this summer.
It seems to have support from a growing and disparate group of individuals representing a number of community organizations and individuals.
The Drug War Survivors Civil Rights Battle
Sometimes lost in all of the discussions between politicians, government bodies, organizations which survive off of government funding and average citizens who are genuinely trying to help, are the sobering facts underlying a civil rights battle between the Abbotsford Drug War Survivors (DWS) and the City of Abbotsford.
That battle, which has also been festering for the better part of a decade, is coming to a head this week in Jubilee Park, where the DWS started a peaceful protest last Sunday, and in court this fall as the first of a whole slough of lawsuits against the City of Abbotsford begin.
The Drug War Survivors and the Pivot Legal Society are suing the City of Abbotsford because the City of Abbotsford is the only City in the country which has put itself between health authorities and citizens by refusing to allow Fraser Health to provide Harm Reduction services to addicts.
The DWS and Pivot argue, that the law simply does not allow municipal governments to pass bylaws which override provincial or federal law and either impinge on a higher government’s jurisdiction or take away Canadian citizens constitutionally guaranteed civil rights.
Simply put – all Abbotsford citizens are guaranteed a right to medical care no matter where or how they live. Residency, financial status or bad habits have nothing to do with their rights as citizens.
One of the lawsuits has to do with the City’s decision to poison the homeless with chicken feces – another of the City of Abbotsford’s quaint policy’s which is frowned upon in most civilized societies – and happens to be against the law.
Those cases, together with a BC Human Rights Tribunal hearing will keep Abbotsford and its treatment of those with substance abuse issues in the news for months as the City has chosen to defend itself and its Anti-Harm Reduction Bylaw, citing the fact that it was such a poorly worded and mindnumbingly stupid bylaw that it is unenforceable anyway (Yes … that is their legal strategy).
Where To From Here?
The reason Barry Shantz and the Drug War Survivors have become a thorn in the side of everybody who is trying to come to a negotiated settlement of the Abbotsford Homeless crisis is that nobody’s solution so far put forward will allow the drug users to participate.
Everybody’s solution involves not allowing drugs in the homeless camp. So, as a community we are saying we are prepared to do an enormous amount for the homeless, despite the track record of the police and the City, but we will not help the drug users because we have problems with drug use.
It’s as simple as that.
So no matter what solution we come up with we have already decided that the drug users will remain in the ditches, the alleyways and the culverts because they can’t stop using drugs.
Every politician, religious organization, business organization and most individuals trying to do something about the homeless crisis will tell anyone who wants to listen that Barry Shantz, the head of the Abbotsford DWS, is impossible to work with. They will tell you he often loses his temper and is almost impossible to talk to in a calm, quiet fashion about everybody else’s solutions for the homeless crisis.
Perhaps it is because everybody else’s solution involves every homeless person except his members.
For the record – if you are the least bit concerned about those who were poisoned with chicken feces by the City goons last summer … they are the ones who won’t be allowed into any of the solutions everyone is coming up with for them.
So – by all means let’s work together to find temporary solutions to homelessness in Abbotsford.
But let’s not kid ourselves into thinking we’re going to resolve the issue by continuing to ignore all of the fact-based evidence and treat Abbotsford’s drug users like vermin as we march proudly towards that temporary solution.
If Mayor Banman were the ‘medical practitioner’ he pretends to be he would know that fighting with drug addicts and insisting they demonstrate some form of moral or civic virtue by abandoning their mental illness, their family histories of sexual abuse, their medical issues and yes … their addictions before you stop beating them and poisoning them is something no real doctor would ever prescribe as a viable option.
We treat people like citizens nowadays … except in Abbotsford of course.
All the Drug War Survivors are asking is that their welfare cheques be used to help them become self-sufficient, on their own piece of property, running their own trash and recycling business and that we call off the police and goons from the City.
If Mayor Banman and the City of Abbotsford aren’t bright enough or clear thinking enough to set aside and stop the moral, religious, sanctimonious, uneducated and belittling treatment of a select group of citizens it simply doesn’t appear to approve of and has been abusing mercilessly for years, then it will have to learn the hard way in the courts.
In the rest of the country municipalities are required to obey the law.
Cover Art from seanneprud.com