A group of about 30 current and former drug users turned out at an Abbotsford park to do a cleanup and bubble release Friday morning to mark International Overdose Awareness Day.
The event, put on by the Abbotsford chapter of Drug War Survivors, included lunch from local businesses and cleaning supplies from the Fraser Health Authority and the City of Abbotsford.
Harvey Clause, a member of the DWS steering committee and one of the organizers of the event, said he had hoped to see a few more people, but still appeared happy with the turnout.
“Not bad. I expected maybe a little bit more, but not bad for the time we had to organize this. We only had a couple of weeks to organize this and we got it done. Not bad for having literally no money to do it with,” Clause said.
At the tail end of the #OverdoseAware2018 event in #Abbotsford, where Drug Was Survivors is holding a park cleanup and a bubble release to remember fallen friends. #OpioidCrisis pic.twitter.com/gd812kBkgB
— ᵈᵘˢᵗⁱⁿ ᵍᵒᵈᶠʳᵉʸ (@dustinrgodfrey) August 31, 2018
“We had a pretty good group of people, here, today. Everyone pitched in and helped. That shows a community and that shows a sense of helping.”
That sense of community, Clause said, is one of the important factors for the safety of the homeless population in Abbotsford. Prior to the former tent city being formed, Clause had lived in Grant Park, where the event was held. Now, since the tent city has disbanded with bylaws that no longer allow homeless to keep tents in parks during daytime, he said that community is missing.
“We had a little bit of a community, you know? We had a group of people that were together. We were just starting to be a community. Then they broke us up, basically, and sent us out to be out of sight, out of mind,” Clause said.
He said being “out of sight, out of mind” means not being able to call any place home or to keep their possessions in one place and not having that consistent community around, watching out for one another.
During Friday’s event, prior to the bubble release, Mayor Henry Braun is said to have made an appearance and spoken briefly with the group.
Following the cleanup, members of DWS spoke over a small speaker about their experiences with friends dying of overdose and with the overdose crisis, while the group listened and blew bubbles, a symbol for releasing the souls of friends fallen to overdose.