Homelessness

By October 9, 2018issues

**Homelessness In Abbotsford**Every year Abbotsford is the most philanthropic/generous city in Canada. Our churches,…

Posted by Eric Nyvall For Mayor Of Abbotsford on Friday, October 5, 2018

Full Text:

Every year Abbotsford is the most philanthropic/generous city in Canada. Our churches, temples and
houses of worship are everywhere in Abbotsford and all are filled with compassionate people who want
to make a difference. Yet we step outside of our homes and drive through the city and we see people
camping in parks and shifting through town with their shopping carts. Waiting till it gets dark and they
can go back to the parks to camp. What can we do?

There may have been a day when it would have been popular to send the homeless out. Just make
Abbotsford so inhospitable that they all leave. A politician would probably get a lot of votes for offering
just that. But to do it would be morally wrong, would be illegal and would be another broken political
promise as it could not be fulfilled.

The first part of any solution is identifying what the problem actually is. In this case we have homeless
people who are camping out in parks because they have no permanent place to go. In the morning the
bylaw enforcement officers move them along. (That in and of itself is a problem. Abbotsord’s bylaw
staff are not trained for violence and dangerous situations. Staff have been assaulted and are suffering
from PTSD. Other cities use police officers and officers with more training to deal with these problems)
The homeless go shuffle through town after leaving a mess in the park. Families go to use the park
during the day and deal either with campers who have not left or the remnants of used needles and filth
left behind. The current process does not serve either the homeless or the taxpaying residents of
Abbotsford.

The Supreme Court (Abbotsford spent a ton of money. Over $1Million fighting a court case and losing)
has ruled that the homeless have the right to camp in a park if they have nowhere else to go. But they
must leave in the morning. So as mentioned, sending them away is not an option. But the Court did
leave open the possibility that if there was a site provided they could be denied access to camp in the
parks. I believe that’s what is necessary. Provide a site. Cleanup the parks. Let the homeless
congregate in a single site and dramatically step up enforcement of violations outside the camp. So,
somebody running a stolen shopping cart through town should have the cart seized and taken away
from them. Surrey is doing just that. It is stolen property. Sitting around on the streets in broad
daylight doing drugs will no longer be tolerated. Help the homeless and clean up the parks/streets.
Camping would no longer be tolerated under the overpasses, highway accesses, etc. Let the nonprofits
and the agencies that want to help establish services on site. With people being less transient it will be
easier for a medical provider to get to know them and assess their mental health needs. Provide the
basics like running water and bathrooms in the camp. It seems like an issue that nobody would have to
worry about but just think about it for a minute. Where is a homeless person going to get fresh water?
Where are they going to go to the bathroom? No business will let them in. So they’ll go in the street or
in a park.

Solution: The City of Abbotsford should be prepared to purchase a piece of land (or partner with a non-
profit provider that wishes to contribute, if one exists) and install basic services for the homeless

population of Abbotsford. If a spot is provided to the homeless, there will be new expectations outside
of the camp. A sort of “house rules” if you will. The beauty of this solution is it doesn’t cost a lot in
annual yearly maintenance or ongoing funding. Buying land and securing a site is the big capital item.
And if this demonstrates NOT to work or if a future Mayor wants to undo the whole thing they can go
sell the land and the City would probably end up recouping all its money invested.

2 nd problem: There are marginalized women, children and families that are squeezed out of their homes
for any variety of reasons and they have no place to go. They are people that might otherwise be
economically stable, or need only a slight “hand up” but right now they have a very pressing emergency
housing need. If they end up homeless and on the street it will be a disaster from which they might
never recover. If there was a church/temple that wanted to help out and place a trailer/modular home
on the back corner of their parking lot to give such emergency, short-term shelter to a single mother
they would not be allowed.

Solution: I would propose that Abbotsford immediately either repeal the bylaw that would prohibit a
church/temple from providing such temporary housing or make it policy that variances can be issued by
staff and will be routinely given. Get the City of Abbotsford out of the way. Let non-profits that wish to
use their own resources to provide emergency temporary housing do so. It wouldn’t cost the city a
dime and it would be a stopgap of last resort to prevent single mothers and families from hitting the
streets. With the pressing needs that we see, if no churches/non-profits step up to help than shame on
them.