City workers have removed several shelters built Monday at the Gladys Avenue homeless camp.
Small cabins were constructed out of plywood, but were only in place for a short time before the city moved in Monday afternoon and again early Tuesday morning, said Barry Shantz, founder of the Abbotsford chapter of the B.C./Yukon Drug War Survivors (DWS).
Shantz said the structures were erected one year to the day since his group began a homeless protest in Jubilee Park.
That camp was dismantled in December, after which two large clusters of tents went up on Gladys Avenue. One of them – across from the Salvation Army – was dismantled in the summer. Since then, the other located near Cyril Street, has grown substantially.
Shantz said crackdowns on other homeless camp spots around the city have contributed to the expansion of the Gladys encampment.
He said the structures are needed because of a lack of space and the approach of winter.
“This camp is so crowded and swelling, it’s a danger to everybody.”
Shantz said workers took down three of five structures Monday afternoon, before returning overnight to dismantle the two remaining cabins and two more that had just been built.
Abbotsford Mayor Bruce Banman said the city won’t permit structures to be built on what is a road right-of-way.
“We cannot allow illegal and potentially unsafe structures to be built on the roadside,” Banman said. “Structures on road right-of-ways are illegal, unsafe and they’re against city bylaws.
“There is a drastic difference between a tent and a wooden structure.”
Banman said the site is “being respected by the city as a protest.”
Asked if that approach will continue, he said, “The city will evaluate that as we go along.”
He added that the homeless are being offered help.
“There are shelter spaces available if the folks who are there want to accept the help that has been offered to them.”
In late September, a B.C. Supreme Court justice ruled that a lawsuit filed against the city on behalf of the homeless, which contends that the city’s bylaws against camping in parks are unconstitutional, could proceed.
The DWS, with the assistance of the Pivot Legal Society, had filed the lawsuit after being evicted from Jubilee Park. The City of Abbotsford had argued that the suit was too broad, but Justice Christopher Hinkson ruled that the application could proceed. Pivot said they hope the lawsuit would go to trial in 2015.