Homeless camps on Hydro land to be cleared
Homeless camps on BC Hydro land along Gladys Avenue are to be cleared by July 31.
This week, along a stretch of the road where homeless camps have stood for months, signs were erected indicating the land is private property and no trespassing is allowed.
Simi Heer, spokesperson for BC Hydro, said they have issued notices to occupants on the site to make them aware they are on Hydro’s property.
“We are working towards vacating the site because of safety issues.”
Heer added that they have been working with the City of Abbotsford, local service providers, BC Housing and others to develop a transition plan so any movement of people off the site will be done respectfully.
A teepee which was moved to the west end of Gladys from the Jubilee Park homeless protest camp after its eviction late last year is located on city property and not on Hydro land.
Jake Rudolph, deputy city manager, said about 80 per cent of the Gladys camps are on Hydro property, adding that conversations with BC Hydro and service providers have focused on moving people into alternative housing with modest success.
When asked whether the city is concerned the residents will just move down Gladys onto city ground, Rudolph said the site is almost maxed for space.
He said there are concerns that the homeless will not accept the available housing options, but just move to other areas of the city.
Rudolph said the city still treats the teepee camp as a protest site. The BC/Yukon Drug War Survivors filed a lawsuit against the city on behalf of the homeless, represented by Vancouver non-profit Pivot Legal Society, contending that the city’s bylaws against camping in parks are unconstitutional.
The BC Supreme Court has yet to decide whether that case will proceed to trial.
In the meantime, Rudolph said the city’s approach is to wait for outcomes from the courts before action is taken on the teepee site.
Rudolph said the intent is to have people relocate into housing, but some may refuse, and others may not be from Abbotsford.
“My understanding is that there have been new faces appear that aren’t necessarily ones that are familiar, even to service providers,” he said, adding he wouldn’t be surprised to see some people return to their communities.
Deb Lowell, spokesperson for the Salvation Army, said they are not involved in the eviction process as it is a BC Hydro initiative, but they are aware of the deadline and will be there to provide support. Lowell said their outreach workers have been concentrating on finding housing for individuals and have worked collaboratively with BC Housing to provide additional rental supplements. While the normal housing allowance is $375 within social assistance, BC Housing has provided up to an additional $200 per month for up to a year, which Lowell said opens extra options, including market (non-social) housing.
Lowell said there are about 20 to 25 people living on Gladys. Currently, there are four with a definite interest in finding housing who are working with the Salvation Army.