EDITORIAL: Exercise in frustration

Frustration. That word can likely be applied to every party involved in the homeless issue in Abbotsford.

Frustration.

That word can likely be applied to every party involved in the homeless issue in Abbotsford.

The homeless are frustrated they don’t have more secure options for shelter. Ditto for service providers who work with limited resources to assist street people with deep substance abuse and mental health issues.

Residents and business owners are frustrated with the appalling mess of the Gladys Avenue camp, and the recent expansion onto more city-owned land across the street.

And the city – police, mayor, council and department managers – are no doubt acutely frustrated having their collective hands tied by an irksome court case challenging the constitutionality of disallowing homeless from camping in public parks.

It is the outcome of that lawsuit – begun in March 2014 and now awaiting the judge’s decision – upon which virtually all of the frustration currently hinges.

Until a decision, the homeless will continue their protest camp, and civic officials will maintain a tolerant position toward it.

The irony of the matter is that the court ruling could decidedly worsen the matter if it strikes down the city bylaws. The potential is then a free-for-all for those who rightly or unjustifiably choose to camp wherever they please. It doesn’t mean better shelter or treatment services.

Even if the judge does uphold the city’s laws, he has already indicated it is not within the court’s jurisdiction to order the city to supply housing or other social services.

Most likely, the judge will find it appropriate for the city to provide the homeless with a piece of land to accommodate them in safer, less obtrusive fashion until planned housing becomes available.

Ultimately, when the legalities are out of the way, it will still be up to all the stakeholders to steer through this immensely complex issue. The considerable delay this court case has contributed to the situation is perhaps the most frustrating aspect of all.