New homeless camp in Abbotsford aims to pressure government on affordable housing

Fraser Health has asked campers to leave its property by Saturday

  • Jul. 15, 2016 2:00 p.m.
Homeless people have set up a camp on Fraser Health land on McCallum Road

Homeless people have set up a camp on Fraser Health land on McCallum Road

Kelvin Gawley

A new homeless camp in Abbotsford aims to emulate a similar camp in Victoria by putting pressure on the provincial government to provide affordable housing.

Three tents and a tarp have been pitched on a strip of land between a fenced-off empty lot and bushes on the former MSA Hospital grounds. Protesters have said they hope to see the camp on McCallum Road grow in size and population.

“We may be tucked in behind the trees; We may be tucked in out of the way, where you can’t see us but we’re still there,” said one of the campers, Danau Evans.

There is “strategic thinking” behind the location of the the camp, according to 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 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, etc,” said Wegenast.

The Victoria camp on the lawn of the provincial court, has lasted for several months with a few dozen residents.

But the Abbotsford camp is on private property, which is not regulated like a public park, said Fraser Health spokesperson Tasleem Juma.

Juma said that after Fraser Health surveyed the property earlier in the week and it was determined the fence around the perimeter of the lot came up short.

On Thursday, Fraser Health employees painted a line indicating where the fence would be moved to.

Campers were issued a notice indicating the fence would be moved 48 hours later.

“We are hoping they (the campers) would cooperate,” she said.

But Wegenast said campers are unlikely to abide.

“There’s no real plans to [leave],” he said. “And essentially it’s because they have nowhere else to go.”

Juma did not comment on whether Fraser Health would call Abbotsford Police or use other means to forcefully remove campers.