Homeless in Vancouver: Abbotsford homeless camp moves from park to parking lot

A group of homeless people who have been camping in Abbotsford’s Jubilee Park—some for 50 days—have picked up and moved again.

This time it's to an adjacent parking lot. And by the time you read this they may have been moved again—forcibly by the City of Abbotsford.

Thursday morning (December 12), an early news report described how dozens of homeless people were dismantling their tent city in Jubilee Park and moving it piece-by-piece to a parking lot across the street on private property, where a huge eight-foot wooden wall was erected to screen the new camp from the elements.

The plywood wall, designed to act as a windbreak for the new camp, is made in triangular, free-standing, sections, which reportedly surround the camp on all four sides.

There are gaps between the sections to act as doorways that can be covered with tarps. A local company donated its expertise and labour to build the wall, which was entirely made using donated materials.

A moving story about Abbotsford’s homeless people

The homeless group had certainly overstayed their welcome in Jubilee Park so far as the City of Abbotsford was concerned. On November 25, Abbotsford’s mayor, Bruce Banman, gave the group two days to get out of the park.

However the November 27 deadline came and went. The campers not only vowed to stay put, they launched a human-rights complaint against the City of Abbotsford for spreading chicken manure on another homeless camp back in June.

The move to the parking lot was planned and carried out with a fair degree of secrecy. Earlier this week, a lawyer with the Pivot Legal Society—representing the homeless group—said they were unaware of the impending move, and still expected to be in court on December 16, arguing against city’s injunction to have the tent city cleared out of Jubilee Park.

It’s unclear how yesterday's sudden move will affect the injunction proceedings, but the wandering homeless group are hoping it leads to a permanent legally recognized campsite. It would be modelled on the “Dignity Camp”, which Ward Draper, a pastor with the street-outreach mission 5 & 2 Ministries, has been working to put together.

At the end of October, Draper was quoted as saying, “We have a site on 10 acres…that’s been offered by a well-known local family and business.” I wouldn’t know 10 acres if they fell on me, but I don’t think the parking lot at McCallum Road and Homeview Street is anywhere near that big, but it is privately owned.

Lots of planning and secrecy behind this “sudden” move

I received an email three days ago alerting me to the upcoming move. It named the groups and some of the individuals involved in assisting with the move. It described the eight-foot wall and named the company building it.

I decided against posting the information because I couldn’t get anyone else to confirm that anything of the sort was happening.

The company building the wall didn’t return my email inquiries. The person who emailed me in the first place explained that the company wanted to keep its involvement quiet for business reasons.

Tuesday evening, I contacted DJ Larkin, a lawyer with the Pivot Legal Society. Although she was mentioned by name in the original email, she explained that it was news to her; all she knew was she was expecting to be in court on the 16th representing the group against Abbotsford’s injunction.

Yesterday morning, I emailed her after the move had begun. She replied, explaining she finally received a phone call around midnight informing her that a move was underway.

There’s no way a move like this happens overnight. Clearly lots of people have been working hard behind the scenes to make it happen. And clearly they felt the need  for secrecy. Apparently there’s a valid concern that no good deed toward the homeless will go unpunished in Abbotsford.

Moves and countermoves: Abbotsford strikes back!

After the homeless group’s bold move into the parking lot, they only had to wait a few hours for the City of Abbotsford’s countermove.

The Pivot Legal Society issued a media advisory mid-Thursday afternoon, which read in part:

Abbotsford – The City of Abbotsford has issued a notice to dismantle a section of the collective camp that has been run by homeless people in Jubilee Park since October 21, 2013. Police have warned residents of the Jubilee Park camp that they will need to vacate the parking lot adjacent to Jubilee Park by 6pm tonight or the City will take whatever steps it deems appropriate to remove the structure and belongings.

DJ Larkin, lawyer with Pivot Legal Society, is attempting to enter an application for an emergency stay of the order.

I’m not a Christian so I don’t know if it’s possible for an entire city administration to go to Hell, but I  think this one stands a good chance.

Comments (4) Add New Comment
Dallas Doerksen
I have been a resident of abbotsford for 30 of my 33 years on this earth. My parents took me to jubilee park when I was a young boy. It was a nice clean family park. I would never take my children there now, I keep my doors locked just driving by on the street. As a hard working TAX PAYING citizen of this country, it deeply offends me that these people think they can consume the resources and time of my home city without contributing anything positive in return. The homeless people protesting in jubilee park need to realize that no one of importance will take them seriously until they earn respect through hard work and positive contribution to the community.
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Stanley Q Woodvine
@Dallas

I wonder what you mean by "positive contribution." I wonder if I've ever made anything that you would see as a "positive contribution."

Is simple human respect now irrevocably indexed to income earned and taxes paid?

I believe people intrinsically deserve respect, apart from their income or the colour of their skin or their religion, or anything. I see it as part of that "empathy thing" -- the absence of which, I think, is a feature of psychopathic behaviour.

If you want to encourage people to learn to reconnect to the shared values of mainstream society, it's actually important to treat them like people. If you want to treat them like animals they can learn to behave that way also.

And Dallas, one way or another, we all pay taxes.
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Dallas Doerksen
Dear Mr Woodvine

I am sorry it took so long to respond, work has been very busy. I'm not sure if this will even be read because so much time has passed, and I know how fast the internet moves

I fear my definition of "positive contribution" was misunderstood as just merely paying taxes. Taxes are mandatory and required in order to maintain a functional society like ours. I would define a positive contribution as an act above and beyond what is required by law that impacts the community in a positive manner. In my mind examples of positive contributions would include, cleaning up garbage which is not yours from a public facility (ie; a park), shovelling snow from someone else's driveway without expecting compensation, giving the driver that just let you in during heavy traffic a friendly wave. When I see homeless people in the various parks and greenspace around town, all I see is a really big pile of garbage (I mean no disrespect by this, I realize some of this pile is needed for their survival). Every one of their sites that I have seen are filthy.

I also believe all living things deserve basic respect. I believe there are many different levels of respect. Basic respect in my definition includes, abstaining from intentionally asaulting another being in any manner (ie; verbal, physical, mental). I respect my parents, they raised me cared for me, and are both very hard working. I have absolutely zero respect for their religious beliefs. Just because I have a lack of respect for the choices people make doesn't mean I have a lack of respect for the individual person. I also believe most forms of respect should be earned, and are easily lost and very difficult to regain.

Being from Abbotsford (the buckle of the Bible Belt). I have worked for several hard working honest christians. On several occasions I have been in a vehicle with these gentlemen on our way to work, waiting in line at the local Tim Hortons, as beggars have approached the vehicles in line asking for handouts. Generously my employer offered them work for the day at a reasonable wage for cash. With the possibility of future employment obviously based on performance. Not once has anyone taken this offer, and on occasion the beggar yelled obscenities at us
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Stanley Q Woodvine
@ Dallas

I've previously expressed my negative attitude towards professional beggars. And in this regard I speak for a lot of Vancouver binners.

I can't blame you for lumping all homeless people together. A lot of homeless people do the same with non-homeless people.

Still I can say that I've had a number of casual employment situations that were not as originally advertised. A certain number of non-homeless people think they can "hire" homeless people and either pay them next to nothing, or cheat them out of any pay.

But I never make the mistake of tarring all non-homeless people as dishonest.
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