EDITORIAL: Step forward for homeless

Finally – positive action on the homeless situation in Abbotsford.

Finally – positive action on the homeless situation in Abbotsford.

In coming weeks, the occupants of the “protest camp” on Gladys Avenue and other street people will have another option available to them – warm, supervised shelter for the winter months in construction trailers on Riverside Road, along with support services to help them address long-term housing and health issues.

There are some who say this took far too long, and they would be right. But along with former councils that dragged their feet for years on this critical issue, a finger can also be pointed at the feet of the activist Drug War Survivors group and its advocates.

Their legal challenge to the city’s bylaw that banned camping in parks froze this chronic issue in the courts for about two years. The city had to defend against the litigation, and that cost hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars.

The outcome achieved little, since the judge’s ruling was essentially a mirror of an earlier Victoria case, in which the court ruled the homeless could camp overnight on public land, but had to pack up during the day.

Shortly after the case was over, the city announced the temporary shelter, as it could have done earlier had it not been legally hamstrung.

Even so, as the case plodded through the courts, the city resurrected an earlier unsuccessful plan for a 31-bed permanent, low-barrier, supportive-housing project to be built next year.

Clearly, governments and their constituents, not the justice system, solve complex social issues such as homelessness.

Next, we need to see the speedy end of the Gladys camp. And following that, further momentum on long-term measures for the homeless in this city.

It’s unlikely the issue will ever be completely resolved. Some will refuse whatever is provided. So be it – as long as the support is there when and if they become ready to receive it.

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