People living in a homeless camp along Gladys Avenue in Abbotsford, B.C., woke up this morning to find eviction notices posted on their tents.
The Gladys Avenue camp has been a semi-permanent home for the homeless for more than two years. That changed Tuesday morning when bylaw officers put up notices letting people know they have seven days to pack up and go.
"We are going to do this very respectfully," said Abbotsford Mayor Henry Braun.
"We're not going to go in there, marching in there and tearing people's tents apart when we're moving them."
- Homeless camping in city parks legalized in Abbotsford bylaw
- Abbotsford homeless win in B.C. Supreme Court
- Abbotsford's mayor refutes claims city is dismantling homeless camps
- Abbotsford temporary homeless shelter opens
The city made it legal this week for people to camp in public parks, bringing its bylaws in line with a recent court ruling. But the Gladys Avenue camp is on a road, not a park, so, according to the city, the campers can't stay there.
Still, Braun says he knows asking the campers to leave and actually getting them to leave are two very different things.
"Some of them have told me personally, 'We're not moving,' he said. "I told them, I get that but you cannot stay here. You have to go somewhere else in a park."
Lack of shelter space
Then there is the issue of where the campers are supposed to go — Abbotsford's shelters are almost at capacity.
The city said plans are in the works to create more shelter space. In addition, construction of a 50-bed mental health facility is supposed to be finished sometime this summer.
Still, homeless advocates say more resources are needed for people who are sleeping rough.
"What's this solving other than cleaning up a mess in our community? I don't think this is really addressing anything, because there is really nowhere else to go," said Ward Draper, a pastor with 5 and 2 Ministries.
Draper said he believes the homeless campers on Gladys Avenue will just take their belongings and set up another camp somewhere else. He calls it the "Abbotsford shuffle."
"We're just going to see people being chased around in circles again at the expense of our community, our tax dollars and the health of these people who are already living in dire situations," he said.
It's unclear where the campers will go next, but the city said bylaw officers will be there next week to see to it that they move along. The site they've called home for two years will be empty.