The homeless camps along Gladys Avenue underwent cleaning on Saturday, as service providers, community members and the homeless residents came together to help clear out some of the refuse without evicting the occupants.
Deb Lowell, spokesperson for the Salvation Army, said the work was done as an initiative of the Salvation Army and the 5 and 2 Ministries, with assistance from other service providers, volunteers, Recycle It recycling service, CP Rail, which has a rail line through the area, and BC Hydro, which owns the property.
Lowell said the City of Abbotsford supported the effort, and city staff members were on site.
“We want this to be a community event, where we want to be able to help the folks who are in the camp to better health and wellness.”
Jake Rudolph, deputy city manager and staff liaison for the task force on homelessness, said the city hosted meetings between those involved to help support the effort and supplied items such as garbage bags, gloves and a tent for volunteers to use.
Rudolph said some of the residents from the camps came to the meetings and were in support of removing the trash. He added that the homeless residents mentioned that one problem is people dropping off things they don’t need like refrigerators and sofas. He added that all the support for the cleanup is “just an example of folks in this community stepping up.”
Lowell said the intent was to proceed with dignity and respect, as well as to clear out any potential health concerns while connecting the homeless residents with necessary services. A sweep was done earlier in the week to clear out needles.
“While there is nowhere currently for us to house these individuals, the goal is not to move them along, but to help them to be in a better space.”
Lowell said the next step is continuing to engage with the city on ways to assist the homeless.
Rudolph said the city will provide bags for waste and regular pickup to try to keep things clean “until a long-term solution is found.”