Chilliwack, B.C., homeless camp residents get trespass notice
Homelessness growing the fastest in the Fraser Valley out of all of the Lower Mainland
Residents of a homeless camp in Chilliwack, B.C., have been handed a notice of trespass — despite their claims they have nowhere else to go.
"This is one of a few tent cities in Chilliwack. We've all banded together to survive because there are no beds at shelters," said Dawnette Simons, who has been living at the camp since it started five years ago.
Simons said the residents were given the notice 10 days ago and have been told to leave by Monday at noon.
"We don't know what we're going to do. This is the end of the rope, so to speak, in terms of a place for homeless people like us," she said.
The residents say they believe they're on Crown land. But there are signs saying no trespassing all around the camp.
Simons says the group isn't planning to dispute the order. Instead, it's now looking to move to a patch of grass in the middle of a three-way intersection close to a nearby Walmart.
The camp at Evans Road is the same place where a 51-year-old woman died after her tent collapsed under heavy snow last winter.
That woman's sister is Veronica Evans, who still lives at the camp. She lives in a tent with five family members, including her 72-year-old mother. They all use a propane stove to keep warm.
"I have an air horn if there's a fire," Evans said.
"I go 'doot doot doot' and everyone comes running with shovels and what not, and we put the fires out in minutes."
Homelessness in the Fraser Valley has grown faster than anywhere else in the Lower Mainland. In Chilliwack, the homeless count nearly tripled, from 73 to 221 people.
Mayor Sharon Gaetz didn't respond to CBC requests for an interview on Sunday. But she has previously told CBC News that there are 18 different homeless camps spread throughout the large municipality.
She also pointed out that housing is a provincial responsibility.
With files from Deborah Goble.