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.