Local service groups

Local service groups

Needs of the homeless are ‘complex’

Deb Lowell of the Abbotsford Salvation Army said there are no easy answers.

As crews cleaned out the Gladys Avenue homeless camp on Thursday, service groups were kept busy trying to help those in need.

The Abbotsford Salvation Army were among those offering assistance to the homeless, and spokesperson Deb Lowell said it’s a difficult situation.

“The needs of the few individuals who are residing across the street are complex. Our outreach team, our psychiatric nurse have all been attending to their needs,” she explained.

While many of the homeless decline offers of shelter, Lowell said they are accessing services offered by the Salvation Army. That includes laundry, meals, showers and seasonally appropriate clothing to name a few.

They also have access to the nursing staff.

“Things like blood pressures and blood sugars, and health concerns of that nature can be monitored.”

The Gladys camp became a province-wide concern after the City of Abbotsford dumped chicken manure on it in an attempt to drive some of the homeless away. However, after a storm of media coverage and an apology from Abbotsford Mayor Bruce Banman, the homeless simply moved farther down Gladys Avenue and set up a new camp.

As it continued to grow, the city and service groups met and agreed that it had to be shut down.

On Thursday, many of the homeless living at the camp merely moved back to their original spot, also on Gladys.

The ongoing question is what now.

“Each of those folks are individuals and they bring unique and very complex needs to us as a community. These are issues that are facing the nation. If there was an easy answer, we could point to another community and say ‘There’s the answer.’ But there is no easy answer,” said Lowell.

She said even before the manure incident, the Salvation Army was trying to address capacity issues at the Abbotsford Centre of Hope.

“We wanted to make sure we were utilizing the space that we have. So in recent days we’ve added to the number of beds that we have.”

Four additional beds are now available at the Salvation Army, bringing the total to 24.

“That being said, in recent weeks we have been at capacity and that’s certainly a challenge,” said Lowell.

She said her group, the city, the police, fire and other stakeholders are all striving to “make the best decision for the right reasons” in very complex circumstances. The Salvation Army is in regular discussions with city on how to move forward and develop solutions with “long-term viability.”

Lowell also said that they take everyone’s concerns seriously, not just clients but the community as well.

“The Salvation Army is here for the duration of the journey. We are committed to continuing to serve these, our most vulnerable citizens, with dignity and respect and look at the tough questions, work with other stakeholders to come up with the best solutions.”