Spreading chicken manure on city property to discourage a homeless camp is an act that has painfully torn a flimsy bandage off an old sore.
Last week’s incident on Gladys Avenue was picked up by media around the world, and Abbotsford took a public relations pummelling.
The following day, the city manager issued an apology, albeit one bereft of explanation. The mayor followed with a hastily called press conference a day later, also accepting responsibility but providing no further details, nor action plans. Both men said they were unaware of the initiative until it had been executed.
We are led to believe this was the work of a handful of lower level authorities in city hall who thought they were taking affirmative action on a long-standing problem.
They were immensely wrong about the act, but right about the issue.
As crude and grossly misguided as this measure may have been, it calls attention to an issue that clearly requires more far more government effort and engagement, and that includes the provincial level.
Under that layer of dung lies the large, extremely complex problem of homelessness. There are potentially 200 people who fall into that description in this city.
Homelessness involves myriad factors including mental health and drug addiction, which aren’t cured by chicken manure.
Business owners and residents become understandably frustrated and fed up with the presence of transient street people, and the messes they create. But chasing them from site to site is no answer – evidenced by the fact that the people who were targeted by the manure caper merely moved to another spot close by.
The PR damage control must now be followed by leadership and a recommitment to long-term solutions.