By James Breckenridge. I was asked that question by a homeless human being I have known and shared conversation with for the better part of a decade.
What made the question so chilling as to etch itself into memory, was the utter weariness of the voice, a voice devoid of spirit emanating from a body worn unhealthily gaunt and who’s every aspect spoke of defeat.
Over the years council’s egocentric, patronizing, financially irresponsible, ignorance of the needs of citizens and of the future behaviours and actions have left me shaking my head in disbelief and with a desire to castigate their profligate behaviours by the application of my pedal extremity to their backsides.
But tonight, looking at what they had done, not simply to a human being but to a citizen of Abbotsford, on behalf of the Citizens of Abbotsford I didn’t want to kick their asses.
For a brief moment following the question “Why would the City want to cut a man’s chances of survival so low?” being posed, my temper flared white hot. But the heat of anger lasted only an instant before it was subsumed in the interstellar cold of repugnance.
Filled with the longing to be able to take Council members by the ear, drag them out of their warm comfortable housing into the dark and cold to face the inevitable outcome of their behaviour and to explain how it was they chose it … “Why would the City want to cut a man’s chances of survival so low?”
January 4, 2013
Council’s focus on bad management and burying the city and taxpayers under an ever growing mountain of debt has not prevented City Council from taking action on the homeless living on the streets of Abbotsford.
Unfortunately, for both taxpayers and homeless, the actions being pursued by City Council against the homeless are consistent with Council actions such as ownership of the Abbotsford Hubris & Ego Centre, John Smith’s taxpayer unfriendly friendship garden and Council’s recent attempts to panic taxpayers into approving the borrowing of $300 million to ‘solve’ a nonexistent water crisis.
For several years Council used the process of creating a Social Advisory Committee as an excuse to evade changing their behaviour and pursuing policies that address the causes of homelessness. Why council prefers to continuing doing the same thing over and over and over in hopes that the next time will not, once again, simply force the homeless to relocate to a new homeless camp, is as unfathomable as why Council felt the City of Abbotsford needed a professional hockey team so badly they hung the albatross of the Abbotsford Hubris & Ego Centre around taxpayers necks.
Unsurprisingly, once created, the Social Advisory Committee pointed out that chasing the homeless from place to place around the city until they were back to where the chase had begun and then beginning the chase again was pointless when there was a lack of viable housing options for the homeless.You can see just how the City values the advice of the Social Advisory Committee. An Advisory that the City stated it could take no actions to address homelessness without direction from.
Council’s Social Advisory Committee has led to a plenitude of politically correct words – and the accomplishment of nothing of actual substance or effectiveness.
So Council continues to engage in the insanity of endlessly chasing the homeless from place to place around the city. With Council’s well developed ability to ignore reality and see only what they want to see, this pointless chase grinds on and on year after year.
With the same people, people who were residents of Abbotsford [many of whom grew up in Abbotsford] before fate placed them homeless on the streets of Abbotsford, being chased year after year around their home city to no avail.
Begun in the spring of 2012 Council’s current onslaught has been aggressively chasing the homeless around the City with great zeal.
This hasn’t reduced the numbers of homeless but it has physically and spiritually worn the homeless down, stripping away their human dignity and the belongings needed to survive the winter alive.
The two carts unceremoniously dumped into an Abbotsford city garbage truck belonged to one of the homeless whom the City has been particularly aggressive in pursuit of.
In prior years the city had not been able to harass him at this level because his camps were well off the beaten path making finding them a much more difficult task.
An injured leg has severely limited his choice of homestead this past year with the result he is an easy target for the City, and is often targeted. Between the City and the second class medical treatment the homeless receive in Abbotsford his leg has worsened and taken a heavy toll on his overall health – reducing him from lean to noticeably underweight and worn down.
Moving shopping carts has become such a struggle, especially when his focus has to be patching together enough of a shelter to avoid becoming another ‘dead of natural causes’ homeless statistic, that his carts sat long enough to be misappropriated by the City and their garbage truck.
And before City Council begins its excuses regarding its failure to address homelessness, how is it that Council has $17.5 million to waste by giving it to the YMCA to build a facility that that not only fails to address the needs of the citizens of Abbotsford, but will cost taxpayers additional millions to offset the millions lost at existing City facilities as the Y, subsidized by Council’s continued wasteful use of taxpayer funds, takes business away from the City’s existing facilities – forcing taxpayers to make up the lost revenue out of their pockets – yet pleads poverty when it comes to doing anything productive about homelessness.
Although … there is a great deal of truth in Council’s claims of poverty when it comes to homelessness; not a poverty of monet but of leadership, integrity and ethics.
A poverty of character which has City Council pursuing a scorched earth policy as it tyrannizes the homeless.
A behaviour that entails a human cost that is not only unacceptable, but unconscionable.
I found myself partially thawing, cleaning and washing several bags of soaked, semi-frozen bedding for the person whose survival was threatened by the city relieving him of the necessities to avoid freezing to death. Once laundered, dried and packaged against the wet of the weather it was time to clean up the mess created in getting the bedding laundered and clean up the mess that I had become.
It was not my job to do any of that. Indeed, I already had a task list that was overwhelming and escalating stress levels. There were innumerable excuses available for not taking on the additional work and stress, and only one reason to undertake all the extra effort.
To me that one reason, a person’s life (their survival), left no option but to tackle the extra work.
In a fine twist of Irony, the actions of the City have resulted in a return to living on the same street he lived on as a child, albeit he is now living under a tree on that same street.
The reality as to where the homeless are from is that many of them grew up in Abbotsford. Indeed, Councillor Simon Gibson is not the first member of his family to have a major effect upon this homeless person’s life. His stomach still bears the scar from a knife in the hand of Simon Gibson’s father.
In a fine twist of fate the father saved a life with his blade and the removal of an appendix; a life the actions of the Doctor’s son, Simon Gibson, are putting at increasing risk.
February 8, 2013
“Do you have any candles?” came the quiet voice out of the dark. ‘One left … I need to get moving some more up the priority list.’
“You wouldn’t have a sleeping bag would you” ‘Sorry but with the City hunting down the homeless like there is a bounty on their heads … even the bag from my emergency car kit is gone.’
“The City cleaned out my camp and left me with nothing to survive with but what I am wearing.” … silence … “James — Why would the City want to cut a man’s chances of survival so low?”
The Question seems to echo off Reality itself in the Silence the Question evoked.
On the way to get a candle for a heat source, as someone stepped out of the building for a smoke break I inquired if he happened to have a sleeping bag in his vehicle. It seemed appropriate given the need, although I did feel curiosity as to what he thought of that question coming to him out of the dark of a cold winter eve?
Then one of those serendipitous happenings that occur when you are where you are supposed to be, doing what you are supposed to be doing, rolled up in a burgundy van.
It was somebody down from Boston Bar who, seeing me as he drove by, had pulled up to ask about someone who had stayed at his place in Boston Bar. Given that it was one of those happenings, I had seen this person on two different days this week for the first time in months.
He had a sleeping bag in the van that his dog lay on. He had no objection to parting with the sleeping bag other than some embarrassment at offering a sleeping bag his dog had been using to a human being. He did feel a need to offer assurances that his black lab was a fine, clean dog who was bathed from time to time.
Personally, if a dog’s sleeping bag can significantly increase my chances of survival … I apologize to the dog for needing his bag and thank him for the gift.
You know that if City Council had treated a dog the way they treat the homeless …
… they would be dragged to court on criminal charges, the press would be all over them and the public would be screaming for their blood.
But a Human Being? Who cares? Obviously neither Council nor the Citizens in whose names Council are hounding the homeless.
Collatio Tomi Secundi
Mayor and Council revisited the idea of protecting City assets from being used for offensive purposes by any who paid for the use of those Assets, apparently finding a little female thigh flashed on the football field at the Abbotsford Hubris & Ego Centre ‘offensive’ …
Yet Mayor and Council are fine with their offensive use of City assets and manpower to strip away the materials the homeless need to survive the elements of winter weather. Or perhaps it is the contention of Mayor and Council that the actions they pursue against the homeless are so totally reprehensible, these actions bypass any suggestion of being offensive because they are repugnant?
Be that as it may, Mayor? — Councillors? — Voters?
“Why would the City want to cut a man’s chances of survival so low?”
He awaits your reply.