Should the city’s homeless be allowed to move back into Jubilee Park, despite having been ordered out by the courts almost a year ago?
Lawyers for Pivot Legal Society, a non-profit legal group representing homeless people in Abbotsford, were in court last Friday, arguing that the December 2013 injunction granted to the city to clear out the park should be lifted.
No, it should not. The right decision was made at the time. This latest action squanders the court’s time and taxpayers’ money in legal response.
Yes, the city has an obligation to work toward long-term solutions, and contrary to claims otherwise, important steps are finally being taken.
While a proposed downtown low-barrier housing project failed to find council support earlier this year, another property in the area has since been rezoned for such a facility, and provincial funding is again being pursued.
Acting on the recommendations of the homelessness task force, the city will hire a co-ordinator to focus on this critical issue. This week, funding for a local Assertive Community Treatment (ACT) team was announced, which will bring support services to hard-to-reach people living with severe mental health and substance use disorders – in other words, many of the homeless.
These initiatives and others actually address this complex issue. Merely moving a specific group of homeless back into a public park does nothing of the kind, other than to invite a repeat of the squalid eyesore that Jubilee became.
The courts determined that camp was impacting public use of “community space” and this superseded the inconvenience of having the occupants move. They subsequently chose a narrow strip of city land along Gladys Avenue, which advocates now deem dangerous and crowded. Yet, they still refer to it as a protest camp, so at least some of the occupants have stayed to make a statement. Some have moved of their own accord, while others have accepted shelter options. The latter are often declined, according to out-reach workers.
This city is on a long road to addressing homelessness. It doesn’t lead to a public park.