Fraser Health exploring legal options to oust homeless camp

Campers on MSA Hospital grounds in Abbotsford are trespassing, health authority says

A camp on the former ground of the MSA Hospital on McCallum Road is trespassing

A camp on the former ground of the MSA Hospital on McCallum Road is trespassing

Fraser Health Authority is exploring its legal options, as it looks to remove a group of homeless people camped on a piece of its land.

The camp is on a strip of land on the former grounds of the MSA Hospital on McCallum Road in Abbotsford.

RELATED: New homeless camp in Abbotsford aims to pressure government

There is “strategic thinking” behind the location of the camp, says Jesse Wegenast, a pastor with 5 and 2 Ministries who has visited the camp several times.

The camp is on Fraser Health land and campers believe their presence could put pressure on the provincial government and B.C. Housing to build more affordable housing and provide more social services.

“There was a camp in Victoria on provincial land that ultimately resulted in the creation of some new affordable units, supportive housing, etcetera,” said Wegenast.

On Thursday, July 14, a letter from Fraser Health was hand-delivered to the camp, asking them to move within 48 hours.

Campers were told they were expected to leave the property before the 48-hour period expired on Saturday.

A line was drawn on the ground, on the edge of the health authority’s property along the sidewalk, and the fence was to be moved to that line.

But on Monday, when a crew came to move the fence, the camp’s three tents and tarp structure hadn’t moved.

The crew moved the fence to the property line where they could, but left the fence in place along the portion occupied by campers, who were given a notice of trespassing.

“Unfortunately, the occupants have chosen not to cooperate, so what we’re going to do now is explore all our legal options that are available to us,” said Fraser Health spokesperson Tasleem Juma.

The options may include going to court or asking the police for assistance, said Juma.

Abbotsford Police, however, hope they won’t have to become involved in a forceful removal of the campers, said Const. Ian MacDonald.

“It’s not a police matter at this point in time,” he said.