News

Gladys Avenue campers told to move

Notices were pinned to tents at the Gladys Avenue homeless camp Tuesday. - Tyler Olsen/Abbotsford News
Notices were pinned to tents at the Gladys Avenue homeless camp Tuesday.
— image credit: Tyler Olsen/Abbotsford News

Residents of the Gladys Avenue homeless protest camp have been told to remove their possessions from the site by next Wednesday, Feb. 10.

Notices were posted at the site Tuesday morning, the day after council officially adopted a new parks bylaw. The bylaw allows overnight camping in all but three of the city’s parks, but requires campers to take down tents during the day. It also designated Gladys Avenue and the land on which the camp sits as a “highway,” meaning camping is prohibited on the right-of-way.

Notices were also posted at the smaller Cyril Street encampment across the road. That land is technically designated as a park, and the notices lay out the requirement for campers to take down tents during the day.

Mayor Henry Braun said the city is working with service providers to find housing for those camp residents who wish to move into shelters. He suggested that removing the camp from the Gladys Avenue site will be a gradual process.

“We’re not going to sit there with our watches,” Braun said. “Having said that, we can’t just allow it to continue forever.”

Braun said the temporary winter shelter on Riverside Road had one bed available on Monday and more may soon be opening up. But he said there is so much demand for case planning of people seeking housing that the part-time worker tasked with that job is overworked. He said he planned to talk to the province, which funds the position, to see if it could be expanded to ease what he described as a “bottleneck.”

Braun said he wasn’t sure how many people actually live at the Gladys camp, noting that it seemed empty when officers visited Tuesday morning. From his own discussions with occupants, he said at least some of the residents do not want to live in housing.

“Some of them have compelling stories that I understand,” he said.

But Braun said the Gladys camp is unsafe and dirty and will eventually have to come down.

There have been calls for a “dignity village,” where homeless people would be allowed to set up camp on a more permanent basis. Braun, though, said the state of the Gladys camp doesn’t make him optimistic that such a site elsewhere would remain safe and inhabitable.

“If a dignity village is going to end up looking like Gladys, that’s not a solution.”

Those who wish to tent can camp in other parks, he said, as long as they comply with the restrictions set forth in the bylaw that prohibit tenting on sports fields, playgrounds and other amenities. Camping is also forbidden in Mill Lake and Exhibition parks, along with the Civic Plaza around city hall.

“We’re going to do this respectfully,” he said. “We’re not going to go in there chasing people around.”

Wednesday morning, at least a few people were at the camp. The News spoke to one man who said he was staying at the site temporarily.

Another man who was a permanent resident said he wasn’t sure where he’d go after the camp was removed. Setting up and removing a tent each night in a park “is not as easy as they make it sound,” especially for those who are “drug-sick” or suffering from other ailments, he said.

 

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