Residents of an encampment that has cropped up across Gladys Avenue from the Mennonite Central Committee tear down their setups after a visit from the Abbotsford Police Department. Dustin Godfrey/Abbotsford News

Homelessness

‘Strength comes in numbers’: Homeless camp slowly growing near Abbotsford MCC

Harvey Clause says homeless community low on places to safely rest their head, getting frustrated

It’s shy of what one might call a “tent city,” but a congregation of tents has been gathering next to the site of Abbotsford’s former homeless encampment.

Where previously, one or two tents might have been spotted in the grassy area across Gladys Avenue from the Mennonite Central Committee, for the past couple of weeks one will commonly see 10 or 11.

At the camp, a neatly stacked pile of filled garbage bags recently sat just off the road, which Harvey Clause said was an effort to keep the place clean while they are there.

RELATED: Tensions mount over Abbotsford homeless camp removals amid cold snap

RELATED: The evolving relationship between the homeless and Abbotsford City Hall

“We figure if we put the garbage at the curb, they’ll pick it up, just like anybody else,” he said, adding that at times cleanup contractors who work to clear homeless camps will sometimes come by and pick up the garbage.

Clause and Grace Unruh, who have both been camping at the spot, gave a couple of reasons for the recent crop of tents.

“Everybody was moving outwards. Now they’re clear cutting everything and they’re mowing down everything, and where are we going to camp?” Clause said, adding that he’s sensing a growing frustration in the homeless community. “We need someplace to lay our heads.”

He said he applied to get into the modular housing project recently opened by the Lookout Society and BC Housing, but was unsuccessful. Unruh, meanwhile, said she typically found supportive housing to have too many rules – many don’t allow residents to have guests.

Unruh added that some people came out of the seniors’ winter shelter and haven’t had another place to stay.

“And strength comes in numbers,” she said of congregating tents together.

At nearly 60 years old, Clause said lugging his entire life around with him all day is tiring, and that he needs a place where he can maintain a campsite and feel relatively secure leaving his items there.

RELATED: Long-standing Gladys homeless camp comes down (2016)

Community reactions to the growing camp have been hit or miss, Unruh said, whether it’s people coming by and dropping off food or more rude reactions from people driving by.

And the location has not been immune to what has been dubbed the “Abbotsford shuffle.”

“Nothing’s changed. Everybody’s still kind of in the same boat, where you have to tear down and get shuffled around,” Unruh said.

On a rainy day a couple of weeks ago, Clause said refused to tear down his tent, which he had set up at 5 p.m., two hours before bylaws allow tents on city-owned property.

“It was to protect myself so I didn’t have to freeze to death,” Clause said, adding that while he couldn’t stay in the tent, he would be told to move along just about anywhere else he went.

“Doesn’t matter where we sit down. We’re not allowed to stay there … Move your apartment every day to a different location by yourself. Pick it up, everything you own. Tell us how it feels.”

He said he was detained by police, but ultimately let go. Police say they only attend when called by bylaw or others to maintain public safety and assist in enforcing trespassing laws on BC Hydro property, where the current crop of homeless tents is located.

City of Abbotsford spokesperson Alex Mitchell said the land in question is BC Hydro property, but bylaw officers attend the area, which is considered part of a city road right of way and a safety risk.

“Bylaw staff actively engage community Outreach Support services whenever they interact with campers in our community to ensure that vulnerable individuals have opportunities to utilize available shelter options,” Mitchell said in an email.

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.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Second earthquake in two days strikes near Agassiz

A 2.6-magnitude recorded Saturday morning

Province bringing 421 new affordable childcare spaces to Fraser Valley

Supporting early childhood educators and creating spaces go hand in hand, minister says

Aspiring pot-sellers can apply in two weeks to operate stores in Abbotsford

City will accept applications to operate one of four new stores; public consultation to follow

Abbotsford homeless advocate killed by RCMP in Lytton

Barry Shantz spearheaded getting harm-reduction services in city, changing bylaws around homeless

SLIDESHOW: Vancouver Motorcycle Show back in Abbotsford

Annual event runs all weekend long on Tradex

‘Presumptive case’ of coronavirus in Canada confirmed by Ontario doctors

Man in his 50s felt ill on his return to Canada from Wuhan, China

People knowingly take fentanyl so make policy changes to reduce harm: B.C. study

Dr. Jane Buxton, an epidemiologist at the centre, says drug users need more resources,

‘My heart is going to bleed’: Bodies brought back to Canada following Iran plane crash

Remains of Sahar Haghjoo, 37, and her eight-year-old daughter, Elsa Jadidi, were identified last weekend

Surrey tells Uber to cease operations in city, but company ‘respectfully’ declines

Ridesharing company told to stop operating within the city by 9 p.m. Jan. 24

Coronavirus concerns cause cancellation of Langley Lunar New Year celebration

Close to 1,000 were expected to attend the annual Live In Langley event on Saturday

BCLC opens novelty bet on Harry and Meghan moving to the west coast

Meanwhile, real estate agency points to four possible homes for the family

Canada slips in global corruption ranking in aftermath of SNC-Lavalin scandal

The country obtained a score of 77, which places it at the top in the Americas

Wuhan bans cars, Hong Kong closes schools as coronavirus spreads

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam said her government will raise its response level to emergency, highest one

Most Read