A recent editorial comment pondered whether the protest camp on the edge of Fraser Health property was a useful exercise.
I wish I knew the answer. Abbotsford’s homeless population is not diminishing; and many of the expenses incurred due to senior government inaction accrue to our city.
I’d need more than my fingers and my toes to calculate what has been spent to not house anyone. There are garbage collection costs (often outsourced), costs to our local police and fire services, the tax dollars allocated to the physical shelter on Riverside, outreach services to those living on the street, and legal costs of both our city and Fraser Health.
Then there’s the recent cost to fence a chunk of city land to keep out those who had been sleeping there. At over $23,000, I can imagine better targets for those tax dollars.
The list should also include the almost half a million dollars of federal funds to document our crisis of homelessness – ostensibly to ensure that service provision does not overlap. In my opinion, providing actual housing may lower the need for that service provision.
And there are the ongoing costs to a “service provider” for the Riverview Shelter. You may remember that shelter – it was supposed to be a stop-gap measure. Yet because no housing is available, this shelter will likely exist for a long, long time into the future – even though shelters are much less cost-effective than providing actual housing.
At the most recent HAAC (Homeless Action Advisory Committee) meeting it was reported that Abbotsford has 42 sites where one or more homeless individuals reside.
I expect many of those campers want housing. And some may want both housing and detox. Well, the latter are out of luck times two. According to a Sept. 12 report by CBC (re: B.C.’s fentanyl crisis), B.C.’s addiction services are “outdated, ineffective, or very hard to access.”
I still can’t say whether the protest camp will help. But I sincerely hope something does.