An injunction prohibiting homeless people from camping in Jubilee Park will stand, after a decision by a B.C. Supreme Court justice released on Wednesday.
Lawyers for Pivot Legal Society, a non-profit legal group representing homeless people in Abbotsford, argued in early December that an injunction be dropped against camping in Jubilee Park.
The injunction has been in place since last December.
In October 2013, a group of homeless people set up a protest camp in Jubilee Park, stating they would stay in the park until solutions were found to address homelessness.
The city issued an eviction notice for the park in late November, but campers remained.
The city asked the courts for an injunction, which was granted on Dec. 20, 2013. At that time, Justice James Williams said the camp was impacting public use of the “community space” and this superseded the inconvenience of having the occupants move to another location.
The campers then vacated the park and haven’t returned. Many of them relocated – and remain – in an area on Gladys Avenue near Essendene Avenue.
Pivot argued the injunction should be dissolved because the city had failed to provide any meaningful housing or shelter alternatives to the people evicted from Jubilee Park.
Justice James Williams found that people are currently living in worse and more cluttered circumstances, but that those conditions are not a “great deal” worse than their previous camp in Jubilee Park, according to a Pivot new release.
“Today the court recognized that the most vulnerable homeless people in Abbotsford have had no safe place to live,” said DJ Larkin, lawyer at Pivot Legal Society. “Jubilee Park is not the best option, but it did represent a safer option to our clients until meaningful housing alternatives are made available.”
Mayor Henry Braun told The News that while the court upheld the city’s original request for an injunction, “there is really no winner in this, because people are still out on the streets.”
He said the city is continuing to work on other ways to help address homelessness, citing the recent announcement that Fraser Health will launch an assertive community treatment (ACT) team in Abbotsford and Mission. The outreach team will provide health care services and will serve about 100 individuals in the area.
The position of a homeless co-ordinator at city hall will likely be filled and functioning early in the new year, said Braun, but he noted that while “not everybody thinks that is a good idea” it was approved by council.
He said he is continuing to work with the provincial government and community partners to work towards supportive housing opportunities in Abbotsford.
“I want to help people who are in need and want help and I’m am going to continue to do that,” he said, adding that homelessness is a complex issue and is complicated by the court cases.
The injunction related only to Jubilee Park. The city’s application to enforce a ban on camping in all parks will be dealt with as part of a trial tentatively scheduled for June 2015, as Pivot lawyers have argued that the bylaws are unconstitutional.
Braun said he hopes progress is made in helping the homeless before the court case next year.