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.”
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.)
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.
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.)