Chilliwack – At the Chilliwack City Council Tuesday meeting, Council unanimously approved a motion to seek a court injunction to have the homeless campers, who have been squatting on the site of the old Empress Hotel, to vacate the area.
The actual legal process may take 4 to 5 weeks to implement.
This is different than campers staying overnight in parks.
Those campers have a constitutional right to sleep in parks after a BC Supreme Court decision spurred by the homeless situation in Abbotsford, and other municipalities, who were told not to discriminate. That decision came earlier this year.
The old Empress site, now a parking lot , is owned by the City and is not a “park”.
According to the city website: city staff, bylaw enforcement and police have repeatedly requested that the occupants of the Encampment comply with the Bylaws, and they have been ignored. Safety and sanitary concerns were of importance to downtown residents and businesses.
The City will instruct its municipal solicitors to bring a proceeding in Supreme Court, pursuant to section 274 of the Community Charter, seeking an injunction against the occupants at the Encampment to restrain the contravention of the City of Chilliwack’s Bylaws.
The local homeless count has ballooned over the past two years from 75 to anywhere between 300 and 400. Mayor Sharon Gaetz stated that there is no clear cut origin of the homeless coming into Chilliwack, they seem to be coming from all over the Province, outside of BC and in some cases, out of country.
Councilors Chris Kloot and Chuck Stam wondered aloud if the city take a look at micro housing, a concept that Vancouver is looking at and that Seattle was trying. Stam and Councilor Ken Popove will take these concerns to the upcoming housing committee meeting on October 19. Stam wants input from Fraser Health on this.
Councilor Sam Waddington stressed that this is not just a Chilliwack-only problem, that all cities and towns are facing this.
Gaetz said that she gone to that particular encampment and talked to some of the residents, to hear their concern. While any housing is welcome, homeless have stated that they want zero-barrier housing. That means they can use drugs and alcohol without penalty. There are also concerns are the safety of the possession in any housing scenario. Gaetz wants BC Housing to step up their efforts.
Salvation Army, Ruth and Naiomi’s and Cyrus Centre are maxed out for shelter space, which adds to the controversy. There have been ignorant calls on social media that people throw hot coffee or boiling water on the homeless to get them to “move on”.
Something which Gaetz called unacceptable social media behavior.