The court ruling on a challenge to Abbotsford’s bylaw banning camping in public places such as parks can perhaps be described as a draw.
Legal advocates for the homeless didn’t get the carte blanche right to set up permanent shelter they were seeking for their clients.
Yet, the judge did rule that the homeless could camp temporarily overnight in public places when no other shelter was available. Their tents have to come down between 9 a.m. and 7 p.m.
While both the city and the homeless claimed a victory in the decision, in reality, it does little to nothing to solve the painful problem that has been front and centre of public attention in Abbotsford for the past several years.
With a low-barrier supportive housing project still more than a year away from completion, street people will still be occupying public spaces, with all the associated safety hazards, unsanitary conditions and incumbent public response, ranging from compassion to contempt.
One thing is certain – the so-called Gladys Avenue “protest” camp has got to go.
It is an appalling sight, despite city efforts to contain the trash and address the worst of the sanitary issues.
Appealling the court decision seems to be pointless for either side, to say nothing of another major expenditure of scarce tax dollars.
Therefore, the city needs to get cracking on an interim solution.
Rousting the homeless out every morning, making them pack their tents and accumulated possessions, only to see them recreate the encampment in the evening is an exercise in futility.
Maple Ridge recently addressed a similar encampment in that city with a multi-pronged initiative to secure a temporary indoor shelter in a leased building, with support from provincial funding and various social services.
It’s not ideal, but could that be a potential solution here?
Short of that, is there city land that can be temporarily designated for the homeless so they don’t have to pull down their camps – until there are housing options available?
Mayor Henry Braun says a strategy to deal with the Gladys camp should be coming in a few weeks.
We trust it won’t be any longer than that.