isaiah

I’m making an exception to my usual rule not to write about local issues on my blog today because, well, I’m angry.

I live in a beautiful little city, just outside of Vancouver, British Columbia. I’m rather new to the area – just four years – but my entire family lives here, my children go to school here, I shop here, I work here, I write in the public library, we worship here, our friends are here – this is our home. And normally I’m very proud of our little community. But over the past few years, I have been so disappointed by our City Hall and their attitude towards our homeless* community and their inability to begin to move our community forward with a social conscience on this issue.

The history here is long and detailed, but there are two incidents that exemplify the city’s complete lack of compassion and common sense.

The first incident is The Chicken Manure Incident. Yes, you read that right. Our lovely city leaders decided to break up a homeless camp that had been established by spreading chicken shit on the ground right beside where people were sleeping, right beside where they had their few possessions. It was a clandestine effort by the city to make the homeless population “move along.”

Nice, right?

Kevin Miller, the local filmmaker behind Hellbound?, created a documentary about the incident. (You can rent the full doc for $3 here.)

Then BC Housing and Abbotsford Community Services offered to build a small (20-bed) low-barrier $15.3 million shelter for our homeless population. And our city hall VOTED AGAINST IT. It was a 4-3 vote when our Mayor stepped in to cast a “no” vote, killing the proposal. (My thanks to Councillors Patricia Ross, Dave Loewen, and Henry Braun for their support of the project.)

Nice, right?

I’m not a homeless activist in our city, I’m just a rather ordinary citizen, but let me tell you, I’m disgusted and disappointed and more than a little angry.

I believe we can do better as a community.

I believe our homeless neighbours deserve dignity and compassion.

And as a disciple of Jesus, you better believe I’m standing with our homeless on this one.

In a peaceful effort to communicate and make sure our elected officials know that we expect better and our neighbours deserve better than this, a peaceful protest has been planned.

If you’d like to participate in a peaceful protest along with other citizens of Abbotsford, please join us at City Hall on Monday 24 February at 12 noon.

There’s a Facebook group here with updates and details.

To support or volunteer with ministries working with our homeless, please check out Ward Draper’s The 5 and 2 or The Salvation Army’s Centre of Hope here in Abbotsford.

And please continue to pray.

 

(I know that the term “homeless” as an identifier can feel dehumanizing and that is not my intent in any way. People find themselves without a home for various reasons, and it is not an identity. In this case, I’m using the term because that is how the debate has been framed and discussed within our community.)

In which the moments are now ours alone :: on (not) blogging about my tinies
In which I link you up (vol. 43)
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  • lndwhr

    Sarah, I volunteer with a homeless shelter here in Milwaukee and the needs of the homeless have become heavy upon my heart and life. I will be praying for your efforts on Monday and within your city. Thank you for standing up and saying something.

  • Jane Halton

    Arrrgh. I have been following this story too Sarah. And after ten years in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver (non-local readers: inner city), I have learned one of the most of important things people can do is love the “homeless” and marginalized IN THEIR OWN COMMUNITIES (like Abbotsford) so people don’t end up migrating to worse areas. There is love to be shown and work to be done in all communities, not just the “inner city.” Thanks for calling our attention to this!

  • Jen

    I also work in a homeless shelter, but for adolescents in Kansas City. I am often shocked at the lack of concern most people have for the homeless population. It can be an uphill battle, but one that’s worth fighting. I’ll be prsying for all of you willing to stand up and advocate!

  • Conway300

    http://Www.bethlehemhouse.net

    Our community of churches purchased a home and hired a staff to help our homeless.

  • Whoa. There’s no way to justify the Chicken Manure Incident. Proud of you for standing up for what’s right, Sarah. If I lived in Abbotsford, I’d be right beside you.

  • Wow… Just… wow. As a pastor and friend of many of my homeless neighbors, a fellow human being, and a follower of Jesus – One who both was homeless, himself, at times and who commanded all of his followers to love and care for those who are on the margins, particularly the poor and the homeless: this makes me ill and infuriated. Thank you for getting angry and speaking out and for remembering Jesus’ teachings, which include very clear imperatives about how we are to treat God’s children around us who have little:

    Matthew 25:34-40: “Then the king will say to those at his right hand, “Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world;35for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.” 37Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? 38And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? 39And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?” 40And the king will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.”

    And Luke 16:19-31: about the poor man at the foot of the gate of the rich man (among many other parables, sermons, and commands). (Here is a sermon I did on this text earlier this year: http://musingsfromabricolage.wordpress.com/2014/01/09/the-rich-man-and-the-man-with-a-name-sermon/)

    Though I cannot make it up to Canada on Monday to stand with you: I stand with you from Chicago in spirit and will pray for you all and for our homeless brothers and sisters in Abbotsford who deserve justice and deserve to live holistically and to be treated with dignity!

  • kagey1

    See you at the rally, Sarah!
    ps Councillor Moe Gill also voted in favour of the project.

  • rachel workman

    Thank you for sharing this on your blog. I enjoy reading your blog, and find inspiration, courage,and hope in your words. I live in Abbotsford, and plan to attend the rally. Have never done this before, but as with you, I believe we can do better, and want to show love and solidarity with our neighbours.