Founder of the Abbotsford Chapter of the BC/Yukon Drug War Survivors (DWS) Barry Shantz asked Monday just exactly where the Abbotsford Police Department (APD) would like the homeless on Gladys Avenue to move.
Cover photo: Head of the Abbotsford DWS Barry Shantz. Bas Stevens photo.
“Where are they supposed to go?” asked Shantz in response to the announcement by the APD Monday that they will be enforcing the ‘No Trespassing’ complaint by BC Hydro, the owner of the property across from the Salvation Army and the site of last year’s world famous Chicken Manure Incident where the homeless men and women are living.
Why the provincial crown corporation is using the APD to enforce it’s complaint was not made clear by the APD in its release.
“This is just the Abbotsford Shuffle all over again,” said Shantz who expects that the forced eviction of those targeted by BC Hydro will necessitate at least eight containers and manpower from a huge number of agencies and individuals who work with the homeless in Abbotsford.
City officials, politicians and the police have all included, in their media discussions of the issue, comments about the fact that the Salvation Army and The 5 and 2 Ministries have been trying to find homes for the men and women after MLA Darryl Plecas negotiated a 30-day extension to BC Hydro’s request.
There is, as yet, no indication of which agencies, organizations or individuals BC Hydro or the APD intend to request for assistance. Nor has the City of Abbotsford indicated whether or not it will provide City staff and resources to help with the massive relocation nor who will be asked to pay for it all.Neither the Salvation Army nor The 5 and 2 Ministries have been successful at making any serious dent in the growing population of homeless men and women living along Gladys Avenue and no one seems to know what to do about that.
Despite saying that they are concerned about safety issues , speculation continues about the motivation behind BC Hydro’s decision.
“Some of these people have been living there for as much as a year. Why is this suddenly a priority for BC Hydro and the APD?” asked Shantz.
Many in the camps have told Abbotsford Today they do not intend to move. Others are frightened about what will happen to them and their belongings if they aren’t able to get everything out of their camps before the police show up.
“If those who don’t want to leave stay put on July 31, and they want to start arresting people what does that mean”” asks Shaintz, adding, “Does the APD have the resources to arrest and house 15 to 20 people. If not are they we all going to be carted off to Surrey pre-trial centre?”
“Is the City of Abbotsford prepared to arrest and detain that many people because they still don’t have a home?” he asked.
“If the City is really this determined to establish, once and for all, that this will be their reputation around the world then we are ready to stand up for our rights and ensure that every bit of it is recorded for posterity,” he added.
Since they do not qualify for shelter space, other than emergency inclement weather shelter, and most have had terrible problems finding any sort of housing or a landlord who will accept them, the homeless are completely unclear on what they are supposed to do on July 31 if they don’t have anywhere to go.
“Is everybody just supposed to walk across the street to the Sally Ann and camp there?” asked Nick Zurowski.
“The age-old question about Abbotsford’s inability to do anything for its most destitute and un-houseable citizens remains – where do you want them to go?” asks Shantz.