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City of Abbotsford admits dumping chicken manure on homeless camp

The City of Abbotsford has apologized for dumping chicken manure on an unofficial campground for people experiencing homelessness.

News of the dump broke earlier today in an opinion piece on Abbotsford Today, an online newspaper, written by local homeless advocate James Breckenridge.

Breckenridge told The Tyee the move was just an escalation of the City's constant attempts to drive people experiencing homelessness out of the city.

"They show up at a camp and whatever the person can't carry away, they take and garbage," he said.

The City began daily trips to the camp on Gladys Avenue six days ago according to Breckenridge. Today, instead of coming with a dump truck, they dumped what appeared -- and smelled -- to be chicken manure on the site.

"Besides the dumbness of using chicken material in light of bird flu and then the big avian killwe had here not that many years ago, this camp is beside one of major thoroughfares: there's a set of railroad tracks and this is a path that most people use to cut across it," he said, adding he has pictures of the manure on his blog.

"So you've got all this material being gone through by all these people and tracked all over the place in the city."

The Tyee contacted the City of Abbotsford for a response and received an emailed statement from City manager George Murray apologizing for the incident.

"As City manager, I take this situation very seriously and retain full responsibility for the manner in which we dealt with this incident. I am deeply sorry for our actions," reads his statement.

"The City will be removing the manure from the site and working closely with our community partners and the people impacted over the next few days to collectively resolve this issue."

Breckenridge says the major thing the City of Abbotsford can do is lobby BC Housing for more housing for people experiencing homelessness, particularly those labeled "hard to house" due to mental illness, addictions, or not being used to living indoors.

With just 20 shelter beds for the estimated 121 homeless people in the city, Breckenridge says the problem isn't going to go away simply by throwing out people's stuff or dumping manure on homeless camps.

"It's been pointed out numerous times to the city (that) there's no viable alternatives for housing for these people that fall into that hard to house category, and the City's attitude and behaviour has made pretty sure that there's no housing in the city that could, not just would, but could accommodate the hard to house," he said.

"We really need housing for people who have issues that make them hard to house."

Katie Hyslop reports for The Tyee Solutions Society. Follow her on Twitter.

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