Voices from the Abbotsford Dignity Village

By Ivan Drury

Originally published in The Volcano

abby-copyThe Dignity Village homeless camp in Abbotsford, established in the spring of 2013, is the longest running protest tent city in postwar history of BC. A handful of the couple dozen people who live in Dignity Village have been there since the beginning; they have moved with camp as it has been pushed site to site by court order and police directed trailers in what has been coined the “Abbotsford Shuffle.”

On Saturday August 9th the Social Housing Alliance screened the film “People of Katawapiskak River” at the Dignity Village homeless camp in Abbotsford. The Downtown East spoke with some Dignity Village residents.

Victor
I’m proud to be able to say I’m part of this place, to feel part of the community. If you sit down and talk to any person in this camp, it doesn’t matter how tough you are, their stories will make you cry. These are intelligent, educated, good people who have been broken at some point in their lives. City Hall is breaking them. They vote against housing and against harm reduction, saying the problem doesn’t exist. They say the people don’t exist, and it pushes the people towards suicide.

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Before we had a homeless camp we were all sleeping in different places, alone or just a couple people together. Abbotsford said ‘no one’s allowed to sleep in the parks’. And we had issues with the RCMP. They’d come find people camped in the woods and cut their tents apart. Some city workers dumped a load of chicken shit on a camp. And cops went to a camp when no one was there and sprayed everything inside with bear spray so when they got back the got the effects of the spray. So we said — okay, we’re camping in the park all together. Here, there’s strength in numbers.
All we want is just our rights. People try to apply for apartments and they do security checks, they ask where you work, judge you about how you look. It’s none of their business. It means you can never get a place to live.

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“There’s tons of homeless people in Mission, Chilliwack, and in Vancouver. But they don’t show themselves. I moved into the first Dignity Village camp at Jubilee Park to show there’s a problem, and we’re still here. The government doesn’t want to deal with the problem. They want us out of sight and out of mind. But we got no place to go. We are going to stay here visible until we got a place to be where the police won’t bug us.

“A couple years ago the cops destroyed peoples’ camps. We made our camp at Jubilee and they can’t attack us anymore because we showed them.”

 

Support the Dignity Village!
The camp needs the following donations:
•    Generator
•    Cigarette papers
•    Propane
•    Tarps


If you’re an Abbotsford resident, write letters to the editor supporting the camp.