Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Social News

A Visible Issue

Abbotsford homeless at odds with city over housing

Released by ChilliwackToday.ca for DWS/Photo courtesy of JD Archer

 

Teepee at MCC Dignity Village. Photo by JD Archer

 

he peaceful protest by members of the Abbotsford Chapter of the BC/Yukon Drug War Survivors (DWS) continues on Gladys Avenue opposite the Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) construction site, since its forcible eviction from Jubilee Park during the Jubilee Park Exodus on Christmas Eve.

“We will only be moved by a court order,” says Barry Shantz, head of the Abbotsford DWS.

“Mayor Bruce Banman admitted in the Abbotsford News that the City had learned from the Jubilee Park Exodus how to do the job properly.”

“We are now located across from the MCC and, with, absolutely no indication of any willingness to discuss our situation or our proposal, we have come to the conclusion that the City has no intention of moving forward in any positive manner to resolve homelessness for our members,” adds Shantz.

“If the City wants an MCC Exodus we are fully prepared to move all over again.”

Pivot Legal Society, which is representing members of the DWS in a number of civil law suits and human rights cases, will be in court Friday with the City of Abbotsford lawyers to continue the education of the City of Abbotsford on subjects of civil liberties, human rights and constitutional law.

“The decision by the City to abandon $15 million of provincial government funding for the smallest low-barrier housing proposal in the history of the province further confirms our belief that the City of Abbotsford is simply not interested in finding housing solutions for those with mental illness, drug addictions, alcohol dependence or behaviour problems which make them unacceptable in the high-barrier shelters the City endorses.”

“Whatever is meant by Mayor Banman's statement that he has instructed City staff to come up with a homeless strategy, we have a long history of being abandoned and left out of every single solution this community has ever contrived.”

 “If the City of Abbotsford wants to continue to ignore the scientific and legal evidence which shows that housing is the first step in helping our members, and is only prepared to deal with us in the courts and with the help of its police and bylaw officers, we are more than prepared to let this circus continue,” says Shantz. 

“The city is holding this process in stalemate and ignoring repeated requests to meet and discuss our proposal for sustainable housing.”

“The harassment, theft, abuse and ongoing campaign to exterminate and cleanse this city of its most disadvantaged and disrespected citizens, is more than a public embarrassment. It is a vicious and unspeakable wrong for which those public officials responsible for its orchestration and delivery will have to atone,” he added.

It has been made very clear to us that the City of Abbotsford intends to continue to fight homelessness in the courts.

As long as we are stuck in this endless Abbotsford Shuffle we have no option but to keep going down this road together.

About the Issue

DWS residents of the Teepee opposite the MCC construction site on Gladys Avenue in downtown Abbotsford have been living under the threat of an eviction notice posted by the City of Abbotsford since Christmas.

That order, as yet unenforced, demands the residents of the Teepee leave by January 2. It was issued just days after the City successfully argued before a BC Supreme Court judge that, since there are plenty of shelter spaces for the homeless in Abbotsford, the Standoff in Jubilee peaceful protestors had to leave the park under threat of arrest.

Based on their argument that there are more than enough shelter spaces for homeless people in Abbotsford, the City of Abbotsford further argued that homeless people should be barred from living on any municipal parks or property within the City.

There are no low-barrier shelters in Abbotsford where those suffering from mental illness, drug addiction or alcohol dependence can be housed. The members of the DWS are unhousable by Abbotsford standards.

By only allowing homeless people without behaviour problems, mental illness, drug addiction or alcohol dependence to be housed, and by using the courts, the police and the bylaw department to force them off of public land, the City of Abbotsford is, in effect, conducting a campaign of persecution against a class of people who are defined by their financial status, their health and their addictions.

 

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