EDITORIAL: A situation in stasis

For the second time in three months, a small fire erupted in the midst of the homeless camp on Gladys Avenue...

For the second time in three months, a small fire erupted in the midst of the homeless camp on Gladys Avenue.

The last one burned up a tent. This one destroyed some of the trash that covers the site.

Fortunately, no one was injured in either incident. It helps having a fire hall within a few hundred metres.

However, this squalid encampment is a health risk and a major safety hazard – very disturbing conditions in which people continue to live.

It should be permanently removed. While that may seem obvious, it remains.

The Gladys site is a “protest” camp, the subject of a lawsuit by the BC/Yukon Drug War Survivors, an advocacy group, and non-profit group Pivot Legal Society, which are arguing the city’s bylaws against camping in parks (and by extension in this case, city green space) are unconstitutional and criminalize the homeless.

Until then, any move the city makes to clear off the Gladys camp could be used by the litigants to support their case that the homeless in Abbotsford are being further victimized by city hall.

Abbotsford is an expensive test case for social justice activism, in spite of the steps taken to address the issue, including a community treatment team, ongoing efforts to relocate homeless to existing shelter, and a new supportive housing project slated to open next year.

While the lawsuit will determine the legality of camping in public places, the ultimate objective should be to increase services for homeless people, specifically addressing issues such as mental illness and addiction. Public opinion on the extent of that support obviously varies.

However until a ruling is handed down and interpreted, the homeless situation in this city largely remains in stasis.

That means another fire in the Gladys camp is possible, as is serious injury or death of one of the occupants.

Imagine the finger-pointing that will follow.