A group of volunteers in British Columbia’s Fraser Valley are tired of waiting for the provincial government to clean up an abandoned homeless camp and take matters into their own hands.
The group moves trash heaps and makeshift homes from camp along Chilliwack Lake Road, east of Allison Pool Campground. Some of the items include appliances and entire trailers.
Volunteer Clay Niezen says he sympathizes with those who lived in the camp and describes himself as a bit of a hoarder.
“What I think of as a person’s life is so empty and meaningless that it piles it all up to make them feel like they have something. It doesn’t matter what it is,” he said. he said holding back his tears.
“But in the end, people are more valuable than nature. But they left. I don’t know where they went. But they left that and so we’ll try to make a little difference and clean it up.
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Organizers say the camp was abandoned for at least two months and trash and toxic materials spilled into the river.
“There are the (homeless) people affected, but there are also the impacts on the environment, our natural resources and our river,” said Ann Davis Transition Society (ADTS) Executive Director Patti MacAhonic.
“We don’t even know what kind of toxins and different things might be released into the river and there are (fish) spawning grounds below.”
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The Ministry of Forests, in a statement, wrote that the camp “is in a sensitive area of the river which has been washed away during previous flooding episodes. Some of the rubbish has already been removed into the river.”
He said ministry staff felt it was essential to remove all trash as quickly as possible, but also recognized that cleanup efforts were being led by local environmental volunteer groups.
“If the volunteer group has any concerns, they should be raised with the person or entity responsible for the specific property, either a landowner, Indigenous community or appropriate government agency,” the RCMP sergeant said. of Agassiz. Sargent wrote to PKBNEWS.
“Often, a collaborative approach to dealing with these types of situations has proven effective in past similar cases.”
Anyone can camp on Crown land for up to 14 consecutive calendar days, but MacAhonic says the law does not appear to be enforced.
“We really need boots on the pitch. We need more conservation officers here. We need natural resource officers. We need a way for people to enforce this and of course we need a place where people can go. There’s got to be different ministries, different people coming together.
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MacAhonic says there are about nine camps in the area, and although organizations such as the ADTS know who lives in each camp, there is no system for the information to be dispersed among the community and locals. various government agencies.
But without stable and affordable housing, she says, camps will likely continue to pop up in the area.
“Unless we can get an app here to move people forward, and unless we have a place to move them and options for them, we’re going to continue to encounter the same thing,” she said.
She says her organization offers counseling for at-risk women, but it remains difficult to get anyone the mental health treatment they may need.
“Our social workers are trying to do the best they can, but it’s dangerous. It is absolutely dangerous. There are addictions, crime and mental health and there are not enough resources for everyone.
— with files by Julie Nolin
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