Business Engagement Ambassador Program member Steve Rouault tours Gladys Avenue to pick up trash as part of the BEAP program. Dustin Godfrey/Abbotsford News

Homelessness

Abbotsford homeless cleaning up the community

Cleanup is part of pilot program intended to improve relationships with local businesses

Gladys Avenue in Abbotsford is starting to look a little cleaner, as a group of local homeless people begin cleanup work in mornings and evenings.

It’s the pilot for a program intended to improve the overall relationship between the homeless and the surrounding community, called BEAP (Business Engagement Ambassador Program), which recently got a bit of funding from the B.C. Centre for Disease Control.

“On-the-street groundwork we started Feb. 1, and these guys are rocking it – seriously rocking it,” said Wendy Meszaros, BEAP co-ordinator. “It’s making a huge visual impact, making the place clean.”

RELATED: Abbotsford homeless seek to improve relations with local businesses

RELATED: A WAY HOME: Bondsformedon Abbotsford’s front lines of homelessness

After planning for the program started last fall, Meszaros said it’s a “wonderful” feeling to finally get BEAP running this month.

Overall, BEAP is intended to include a business outreach program, which would provide local businesses with a number that can be called for cleanups or to diffuse confrontations with local homeless individuals.

But for now, the program is just the cleanup portion, which is currently focusing on the area around Gladys Avenue. There are a few permanent staff and a budget to hire casual workers to help with the cleanup.

“Quite a few people are getting on board, and they’re starting to want to make a difference. So it’s really rewarding,” Meszaros said.

Starting up just this month may have been rough timing for the crew, with the month so far marked by strong winds, freezing temperatures and snow. But six days a week, they are out an hour-and-a-half in the morning and again in the evening.

While the business ambassador portion of the program hasn’t kicked off yet, Meszaros said they are starting to develop some of those relationships.

“We’ve been creating relationships with businesses, and it’s been really positive. People are on board; we’re starting to get little donations here and there and some positive feedback and encouragement,” Meszaros said.

“They’re talking about maybe needles on the property or such, so we’re getting people down there right away anyway, even if it’s not in our little area for the moment. We’re still going down to create that relationship, trying to bridge that gap.”

Nick Zurowski, one of the cleanup workers and a longtime organizer with Drug War Survivors, says the idea sprang out of an old “gentlemen’s agreement” between local binners and a business.

“A few years back, there’s these binners. They had a little rendezvous and stopped for coffee some place. And one of the guys is just right upset … because his favourite bin was locked. Then another guy pipes up and says, ‘Well, you know why? Because so-and-so went and laid out the whole parking lot, took everything out of the bin and it was from one end of the parking lot to the other,’ ” Zurowski said.

“The owner was so upset that he locked the bins. So they came up with a sort of a gentlemen’s agreement to keep the bins unlocked … They agreed that they would try and leave it a little bit cleaner than when they found it.”

But Zurowski said with new homeless on the streets, unaware of this agreement, the issue has resurfaced.

Find more of our coverage on Homelessness here.

Report an error or send us your tips, photos and video.

Dustin Godfrey | Reporter

@dustinrgodfrey

Send Dustin an email.
Like the Abbotsford News on Facebook.
Follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

More rescues, less flames: Future of Abbotsford firefighting up for discussion

Mayor says talks with province needed, councillors suggest city may need more full-time firefighters

String of purse snatches at Mill Lake in Abbotsford

Two women were mugged in a three week period starting Sept. 30

Harrison outdoor skating rink to open this weekend

Public skating will be open 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily

Mission principal saves goat, praised as hero by kindergarten students

“Today I get to be the hero in their eyes, changing the world one stuck goat at a time”

Abbotsford man’s murder trial set for January

David Albert Miller charged in death of 52-year-old woman in Kamloops

VIDEO: ‘Climate emergency’ is Oxford’s 2019 Word of the Year

Other words on the shortlist included ‘extinction,’ ‘climate denial’ and ‘eco-anxiety’

Canucks erupt with 5 power-play goals in win over Nashville

Vancouver ends three-game slide with 6-3 triumph over Predators

B.C. widow suing health authority after ‘untreatable’ superbug killed her husband

New Public Agency Health report puts Canadian death toll at 5,400 in 2018

65-million-year-old triceratops makes its debut in Victoria

Dino Lab Inc. is excavating the fossilized remains of a 65-million-year-old dinosaur

Changes to B.C. building code address secondary suites, energy efficiency

Housing Minister Selina Robinson says the changes will help create more affordable housing

Trudeau appears open to safer-opioid proposal in Vancouver: mayor

The city has applied for $6 million from Health Canada to allow for the safe distribution of diamorphine

Security guard at Kamloops music festival gets three years for sexually assaulting concertgoer

Shawn Christopher Gray walked the woman home after she became seperated from her friends, court heard

Most Read