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Homeless camp, tents on Gladys Avenue to be dismantled Thursday

Amid the tents and tarps, garbage and heaps of personal possessions at a homeless camp on Gladys Avenue is a red sign posted on a tree, stating the City of Abbotsford will clean up the site and evict the occupants as of today (Thursday).

The required 48 hours notice was issued Tuesday and the site will be cleared beginning at 8 a.m.

Some of the occupants on site say they have no destination.

Most of the people there have no idea where to go, says Norman, one of several individuals in the camp.

However, knowing what’s about to occur has allowed him to prepare.

‘I’ve already got 90 per cent of my stuff moved,” he said on Tuesday afternoon, not revealing where he was going to next.

Mayor Bruce Banman said the city has worked in consultation with Abbotsford Community Services, the Salvation Army, the Abbotsford Police Department, Fire Rescue Services, and 5 and 2 Ministries.

He said the conditions at the camp are “very bad.”

“It’s deemed that it’s no longer a healthy environment for people to be at and ... it’s along a railway line ... Everyone was in agreement that this is not a safe or healthy environment for anyone to live in.”

Deb Lowell of the Salvation Army said her staff will be there to help people with the move.

“Our outreach team will be visiting the folks on the site, making them aware of the services that are available to them.”

Lowell said staff have developed a trust with most of the people at the camp and she hopes their presence can help prevent the move from becoming volatile.

“It will be a very stressful situation for these people.”

The homeless camp on Gladys Avenue has been steadily growing since the manure incident in June, when city workers dumped chicken manure on a homeless site – also on Gladys, just metres away from the current camp. That act angered advocates and many members of the public about the treatment of the city’s homeless.

As more  meetings and discussions took place, the Gladys camp grew bigger and messier.

According to Norman, city workers came by Monday and informed the group that the area was being closed due to health concerns.

“Living like this, it’s hard to throw stuff away because you never know if someone might need it. People see junk, because it looks like junk. But we don’t have shelving, we don’t have garbage pick-up.”

Ward Draper of 5 and 2 Ministries said his organization and the homeless themselves know it’s a health hazard.

“We recognize the need for that camp to be dismantled; we get that,” he said.

The question is what’s the next step.

Draper believes a Portland-based project called the Dignity Village is something the city could look at as a possible solution.

“The city needs to step up and give space. They just have to give us space.”

Draper said if the city would loan or donate a 100x100-foot space where the homeless are permitted to camp, they could start a pilot project, similar to the one in Portland, to create a temporary housing solution that will be well managed.

“It’s something they could do tomorrow.”

He said the service groups could run the area, creating a safe place for the homeless to stay.

In Portland, the project is located  “a few kilometres out of town” and is not elaborate.

“It has base sanitary use and base electricity. It’s very minimal in its needs,” explained Draper.

But until a plan is approved, the homeless being evicted will just wander until they create a new camp.

“Then we’ll be having this conversation again in a couple of weeks,” said Draper.

A second homeless camp, located across from Abbotsford Community Services, is also steadily growing.

Occupants there are wondering if their site will be the next to be dismantled.

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