Valley Road Had Better Not Just Be Political Theatre

By Mike Archer. The proposal for transitional housing, presented by members of the Abbotsford Dignitarian Society (Abby Diggs) to the Mayor’s Task Force on Homelessness Thursday, is being greeted with a great deal of hope in the larger Abbotsford community.

City Manager George Murray, however, has shuffled it off for approval by a committee of the very people and organizations who have created one of the most disastrous and embarrassing human rights crises in the history of Abbotsford, BC or, indeed, the country as a whole.

It is precisely because our planning department – which knows nothing about homelessness – our bylaw department – which knows nothing about homelessness – our police department – which knows nothing about homelessness – and our fire department – which knows nothing about homelessness, have been the ones who have been sent to deal with homelessness, that we have ended up with hundreds of men and women who suffer from mental illness, drug addiction and alcohol dependence living on the side of the road in defiance of the latest among all of the eviction notices spewed forth by authorities and churches telling them to move on up the road.

Bylaws and regulations don’t solve homelessness. How hard is that to understand? Bureaucrats and cops enforcing rules about camping are not the way to deal with drug addiction, mental illness, alcohol dependence and poverty.

How stupid do our politicians think we are?

In the current situation, where hundreds of people are already living illegally on the streets of Abbotsford, how can you suggest that we have to check on the ‘legality’ of improving on the current situation by providing housing, toilets, water, showers and the necessities of life for them on a piece of private property, rather than simply accept it, embrace it and see if it works? If we don’t try then we are just simply not a functioning, semi-intelligent or even a working society that has any right to believe it can take care of itself.

For Murray to suggest that the next step is to see if all of this nonsense is legal or not is like an Alice in Wonderland trip down a rabbit hole.

Why would you take, what is clearly a meaningful grassroots attempt to do something real, which the above-named institutions have failed to do after ten years of meetings, and send it off to those same organizations to see what they think of it?

How stupid are we supposed to allow the men and women who run our City to act before we simply stop paying taxes in order to end the insults and the idiocy of having to listen to their BS?

These are the same people who have used anti-camping bylaws, anti harm reduction bylaws, billy clubs, pepper spray, theft, assault and chicken shit to solve this issue. Now you’re going to ask them if they will approve of a solution which will help move a small number of the homeless out of downtown and leave the rest on the streets where they can be picked off by the cops.

Though it has its detractors and there are many questions which will need to be answered, the Valley Road proposal is the first concrete step which has ever been taken in this city in order to provide a place where homeless men and women, unable to find shelter in Abbotsford’s high barrier housing options, which require either religion or abstinence as their passwords, can stay without automatically breaking the law because of the trap set by City bylaws which make it illegal to spend the night anywhere but in a house, an apartment or a hotel.

Given Abbotsford’s relentless determination to use its police force to control anyone who lacks the wherewithal to house themselves, a place for homeless men and women to go when they can no longer adhere to Chief Bob Rich’s ‘disperse and displace’ policy, known by many as the Abbotsford Shuffle, seems like the least this City could agree to.

All of the concerns so far raised by members of the task force and likely to be addressed by the plethora of bureaucrats in the planning department, the bylaw department, the police department and the fire department, should simply be set aside in order to let this group get on with solving the humanitarian crisis these very people who are judging them have created.

Get out of the way. You’ve done enough harm.

If, on the other hand, the City intends to simply use the proposal by these generous and committed citizens as a chip to be bargained away in the process, already going on in court, in order to show a judge that ‘we’re trying awfully hard your honour’ then it is the worst form of cynical politics any community in this province has had the misfortune to experience.

Before Jeff Gruban and Paul MacLeod had finished speaking, City lawyers were already before a judge attempting to use their proposal as proof that the City was doing something in a real and meaningful way about homelessness.*

*Editor’s Note: The City of Abbotsford lawyers gave notice they would be providing examples of how the City is trying to assist in providing services to homeless people. In their affidavit the City mentioned it has struck a task force on homelessness. The inference that the City mentioned the Valley Road proposal was an innocent misunderstanding and Abbotsford Today apologises for any confusion caused my the statement deleted above.

How crass and opportunistic can a politician be?

Perhaps we’ve just found out.

Bruce Banman turned down $15.3 Million and 60 years’ worth of support for a low barrier shelter and the Abbotsford Downtown Business Association (ADBA) put up a measly $10,000 to move as many homeless people as far away from downtown as possible.

If that’s it. If there’s no actual solution. No actual homes for the homeless. No actual relief for the destitute …

If this is what Bruce Banman calls real and meaningful progress on homelessness, then those who have tried so hard to do something meaningful and real about the plight of their fellow citizens who have fallen on hard times and been the victims of a system which spit them out, caring neither where they landed nor what happened to them, then the number of people living on our streets will do nothing but mount with growing economic difficulties.

Luckily, for those who, like Banman, decide the fate of others and who so cavalierly dispose of their fellow citizens like so much much refuse on garbage day, none of this will matter.

It is why the system we’ve come up with doesn’t work.

If the Valley Road proposal is just a slogan to be used in Bruce Banman’s re-election campaign then this community has a right to be ashamed of those who would use such a proposal for personal political gain. Surely Bruce is above such tawdry tactics.

Surely Th ADBA wouldn’t stoop so low as to step on the heads of the people they’ve crushed in order to climb to a more profitable future. Wait until you see who is running for council with Bruce.

If you thought you were ashamed of your city … just wait.

Join the discussion 2 Comments

  • Bas Stevens says:

    If what is being said about the city lawyers trying to convince a judge that the Valley Road plan was an initiative of the city is actually true, then I have lost TOTAL respect for, not only the city’s lawyers, but also for the bureaucrats who occupy space in City Hall.

    This is just another nail in the coffin of Bruce Banman’s political career.

  • Observation says:

    The debacling of the homelessness issue will be Banman’s waterloo.

    And, it should be for the other long time council members as well for they are squarely responsible for the international embarrassment this city has become.

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