ABBOTSFORD (NEWS1130) – Some homeless advocates in Abbotsford say it stinks. The City of Abbotsford has issued an apology after dumping chicken manure on a homeless camp but many are still appalled by the situation. It happened today on a site on Gladys Avenue near the Salvation Army.
Pastor Jesse Wegenast, with the 5 and 2 Ministries, refers to the incident as “low scale terrorism” against the homeless. “This is absolutely obscene and quite honest, it’s pretty indicative of how homeless are treated in Abbotsford. We see this with the aggressive campaign to destroy camps.”
He doesn’t think it was an accident and that’s why he’s so upset. “It seems as if, every way you turn in this town, the most marginalized and most vulnerable citizens are getting kicked and not given a chance to recover and get back up.”
He has been in touch with the city’s bylaw staff who’ve expressed regret and will be meeting with staff this week to talk about how to move forward and help those in need.
James Breckenridge, a homeless advocate and writer in Abbotsford, broke the story. He used to be homeless but now works on helping those most vulnerable. But he says what was done doesn’t just impact the homeless but everyone who walks around the site tracking the manure and that’s why he’s so bothered by the situation. “It’s what this says about the attitude of the city and the city employees towards the homeless — they would actually do this, to actually spread chicken manure around to keep them from camping there. One of the other things that really bothered me was the lack of thought…it poses a health hazard for the entire city and shows a disregard for human health.”
He says the city manager has apologized and assures it will be cleaned up but like Wegenast he believes it was intentional. “I have no doubt that the city and mayor and council will deny any responsibility, or say we didn’t sign off on this. The thing is they’ve been chasing the homeless harder, more frequently around the city as though they can drive them out of the city…that’s been their policy.”
He says roughly 200 people in Abbotsford are homeless, but that’s an estimate on the low end as it is hard to count. He says the solution is more housing as well as support for those living with mental illness or substance abuse. “You’ve got to provide housing for these people to get into before you can start to address the other issues and really that’s one of the other things we don’t have in Abbotsford. We don’t have housing that’s designed to work with those hard to house…you can’t just — the whole concept of trying to drive a square peg into a round hole, it’s just not going to work.”
News1130 has tried to contact the city and is waiting for a response.