Is homelessness a serious issue in this community?
Yes, as it is in many others.
Do senior governments need to step up further to assist municipalities in dealing with the problem? Without question.
Do provincial authorities need to address the acute shortage of mental health and addiction services available to those on the street? Absolutely.
Residents, politicians and certainly social agency workers in Abbotsford are acutely aware of the challenges homelessness poses in this city.
Many changes have occurred over the past couple of years in terms of how the issue is addressed in Abbotsford. Last winter, a 40-bed low-barrier shelter was built on Riverside Road. Intended to be only temporary, it remains open.
A permanent 30-bed low-barrier supportive housing project is under construction in downtown Abbotsford. Outreach teams have been created, and extra effort has been made to find existing housing for those who live on the streets and in bush areas of the city.
In that context, the continued “protest camps” staged and supported by groups such as Drug War Survivors, and most recently, local pot activist Tim Felger, who claims to be behind the camp on the former hospital lands – now the subject of a court order to leave – are unwelcome.
The “in your face” posturing drains the empathy of many residents. Encouraging people to disobey court injunctions, and continue to live in filth, is counter-productive in numerous ways, not the least of which are continued health and safety concerns for the occupants.
The hundreds of thousands of dollars spent on legal action by the city, Fraser Health, and indeed, homeless advocates, could be put to far better use than ongoing, repetitive sparring in court.
This isn’t helping any longer, it’s hindering.