COLUMN: More talk, and then hopefully, more action

One has to wonder what the task force on homelessness is going to talk about that hasn’t already been jawed and gnawed to the bone...

During an interview in late February specifically focused on the homelessness issue in Abbotsford, Mayor Bruce Banman told News reporter Alex Butler that the city would soon release a strategy to address the chronic problem.

A “plan” would be forthcoming in March, he said, but wouldn’t discuss details.

No wonder. There weren’t any.

Last week, a city press release revealed “the plan.” A task force will be formed to examine the issue.

Breathtaking.

The Abbotsford Social Development and Advisory Committee was formed eight years ago. It has been discussing homelessness and putting forth recommendations since, although it seems city hall wasn’t doing a lot of listening – or anything else, for that matter.

I wrote the following in a column in this space on June 13, 2013.

Who knows, perhaps there are plans to strike a mayor’s task force to delve into the issue, or pull together all the stakeholders for a series of meetings, or call in independent experts to examine Abbotsford’s homelessness challenge.

That was nine days after the issue really hit the fan, when city workers dumped chicken manure on a popular homeless camp on Gladys Avenue.

Lo and behold, a little less than nine months later, the mayor declares the formation of a task force.

What’s happened between that PR disaster and now?

Other than a lot of political platitudes, virtually nothing, if you don’t include a split council ultimately voting in February to trash a solid proposal that would have directly addressed the homeless problem with supported housing near the downtown core.

Out the window went $15 million in confirmed provincial funding, including an annual operating budget from BC Housing – caving in to opposition from the downtown business association and its members, who cited economic doom, and a decade-old zoning plan banning such facilities in the area.

Other than that colossally bad decision, the city has been paralyzed.

Oh, it did move a homeless camp on Gladys last fall, and the occupants traipsed up the road 100 metres and repitched their tents. Score one for the homeless, who then established a protest camp in Jubilee Park. City hall eventually got a court injunction to force them out. The street people took their towering teepee and set it up on city land back on Gladys, a stone’s throw from the downtown. It’s been there since January.

We can now look forward to the city’s task force on homelessness, which includes a variety of stakeholders, including a major local developer, and the president of the chamber of commerce, which opposed the housing proposal by Abbotsford Community Services. Not among the group, however, is a direct representative of the homeless.

There are some qualified people among the group, headed by Coun. Patricia Ross.

One has to wonder though, what they’re going to talk about that hasn’t already been jawed and gnawed to the bone.

Now this week, we learn of a “homeless society” that has just sprung up, consisting of some Abbotsford Downtown Business Association members and others.

It too intends to tackle this thorny issue, with a focus on a Dignity Village concept. Last September, The News wrote about such an approach in Portland – essentially a sanctioned homeless camp.

A potential site is yet to be revealed, but sources tell me it could be in the area of the waste transfer site close to Highway 11. Regardless of where, there’s bound to be NIMBYism. No shortage of that here.

And then there will likely be a zoning issue, which also sounds familiar.

Interesting that this new group never told the city of its plans before going public.

It’s a shame all this interest in the homeless didn’t manifest itself a little sooner. Wait though … didn’t the ACS and the city start  the housing plan several years ago? Didn’t the city appoint ASDAC years ago to talk about homelessness?

Water, or words, under the bridge.

Nevertheless, if more talking is what it takes to see some actual action, then get at it.

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

Just Posted

PHOTOS/VIDEO: Wings and Wheels set for weekend lift-off in Abbotsford

Fundraiser to raise money for Crystal Gala Foundation and the fight against breast cancer

Kelowna animal rights activist speaks out amid charges in 2019 Abbotsford hog-farm protest

Amy Soranno, along with three other activists, will appear in court on Sept. 3

Abbotsford aims to finally crack down on long-term bylaw-breakers

City boosts top fine for repeat offenders $50,000

Abbotsford restaurant fundraiser supports moms and kids in Mexico

Brodeur’s Bistro donates proceeds on Aug. 17 to Casa de Luz charity

POLICE/2020: Street checks by police down in Abbotsford, but no plans to completely end them

Figures show street checks in Abbotsford relatively representative of city’s population

‘Don’t kill my mom’: Ryan Reynolds calls on young British Columbians to be COVID-smart

‘Deadpool’ celebrity responds to premier’s call for social influence support

Captain Horvat’s OT marker lifts Canucks to 4-3 win over Blues

Vancouver takes 2-0 lead in best-of-7 NHL playoff series with St. Louis

Widow of slain Red Deer doctor thanks community for support ahead of vigil

Fellow doctors, members of the public will gather for a physically-distanced vigil in central Alberta

Protesters showcase massive old yellow cedar as Port Renfrew area forest blockade continues

9.5-foot-wide yellow cedar measured by Ancient Forest Alliance campaigners in Fairy Creek watershed

Taking dog feces and a jackhammer to neighbourhood dispute costs B.C. man $16,000

‘Pellegrin’s actions were motivated by malice …a vindictive, pointless, dangerous and unlawful act’

Racist stickers at Keremeos pub leaves group uneasy and angry

The ‘OK’ hand gesture is a known hate-symbol

VIDEO: World responds to B.C. girl after pandemic cancels birthday party

Dozens of cards and numerous packages were delivered to six-year-old Charlie Manning

Expected fall peak of COVID-19 in Canada could overwhelm health systems: Tam

National modelling projections released Friday show an expected peak in cases this fall

Most Read