City will deal internally with manure-dumping on homeless camp

Those who spread chicken dung have been identified, but city manager won't disclose details

Chicken manure was dumped on a spot on Gladys Avenue

by Alex Butler and Kevin Mills

After dumping manure on a site frequented by Abbotsford’s homeless residents, the city has received a “tsunami” of calls and emails, questioning how the incident occurred.

City manager George Murray, who has issued a statement assuming responsibility for the incident, told The News in an exclusive interview on Friday, that he knows who was responsible for the act, but will not disclose details.

On Tuesday, city workers dumped chicken dung on a small area on the side of Gladys Avenue across from the Salvation Army, a common site for homeless people to gather and sleep, and known by some as “The Happy Tree.” The controversial initiative has attracted international media attention and widespread criticism, with homeless advocates  saying it was an attempt to drive people from the area.

“We’re slowly peeling back the layers of the decision-making process,” Murray said.

He confirmed it was city crews who dumped the manure, but would not say which department. He said the city is currently aware of the majority of people who played a role.

Murray said he will not publicly disclose the information, as the responsibility for the decision lies with management.

“If you’re looking for who is responsible, ultimately, that’s me.”

George Murray

He said the issue will be dealt with internally, and it may, or may not, have personnel ramifications. He said many staff members have willingly explained their role.

Director of communications Katherine Jeffcoatt said the city’s normal protocol for dealing with issues of homelessness were not followed.

“There is a collaborative process, and this took place outside of that collaborative process. We skipped some steps with our community partners.”

Murray said the city was flooded with phone calls and emails from people in Abbotsford and outside of the community. He said he has been personally responding to many calls, and will continue to respond to concerns. He said this issue should not detract from the good work done by the city’s staff.

“We’ve learned from this. We’re going to move forward from this.”

On Thursday, Mayor Bruce Banman held a press conference, apologizing on behalf of the city.

James Breckenridge, a local advocate for the homeless, said it does not matter who made the decision, as the incident is indicative of the city’s attitude towards the homeless.

He said the move comes in the wake of increased efforts to displace the homeless in Abbotsford, saying that more people were on Gladys Avenue than usual, due to recently being moved out of camps in other areas in the city.

“It’s like they are hunting the camps down.”

Jesse Wegenast, a minister with 5 and 2 Ministries who works with the homeless, called the incident “unbelievable.”

He said that many of the people who gather at the site are not welcome at the Salvation Army, and are the city’s most vulnerable residents.

“When you have nowhere else to go, you end up at The Happy Tree,” said Wegenast.

On Friday, a spokesperson for the Salvation Army in Abbotsford says they just want to “move forward” from the issue.

Deb Lowell said the organization has been inundated with calls from across the country.

“We’re busy looking after the folks that were displaced and the folks that come to us for service every day, whoever that might be. And that’s what we need to focus on and concern ourselves with doing. And we want to try and work together with different stakeholders, including the city, to make good decisions, healthy and safe decisions, not only for our client population but everyone in our community.”

She said while the Salvation Army does help the city to be aware of the “issues out here,” as do other groups, the organization operates under its own mandate, as it has for 130 years.

When the incident occurred, Lowell said staff members at the Sally Ann moved quickly.

“Being right across the street, we became quickly aware that it was happening and our staff was on site immediately.”

She said all the homeless impacted by the dumping were offered laundry services, shower  facilities, meal service and medical support. Shelter was also made available.

“At the end of the day, some of those folks took advantage of a few of those things, but not everything. And only one took advantage of shelter for one night,” said Lowell.

She explained that some homeless people choose not to accept help or shelter and that choice has to be respected. The Salvation Army does have an outreach team that works with those who choose to remain on the streets. She said it’s difficult to put a number on how many people are helped.

“It’s fair to say hundreds a day, the lives we touch. I know our meal centre alone serves over 200 people a day.”

Lowell did not want to comment further on the incident.

“We’re just interested in moving forward and looking after the people we’re caring for with dignity and respect, that’s what we’re about doing.”

Surrey North Delta Leader

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

In 2019, roughly one person died every three days in Surrey due to illicit drug overdoses

123 people died in the city in 2019, down from the previous year

BC Liberals firing at NDP due to fact new Surrey hospital not in budget

But Surrey-Panorama MLA Jinny Sims says business case is needed first

United Nations designates Surrey a ‘Tree City’

Surrey is one of 59 cities in the world to receive the designation

White Rock seeks assistance for park rain damage

City applies for provincial funding following closure of Ruth Johnson Park and ravine

Surrey RCMP looking for missing boy, age 14

Brayden Ritchat, 14, last seen in the 10800-block of 141st Street in Whalley on Feb. 21

Protecting privacy key to stopping spread of COVID-19, B.C. health officials say

The number of coronavirus cases in B.C. remains at seven

Toffoli scores OT winner as Canucks beat Habs 4-3

Demko makes 37 saves for Vancouver

Private clinics would harm ‘ordinary’ people using public system in B.C.: lawyer

Health Minister Adrian Dix announced in 2018 that the government would begin to fine doctors $10,000

B.C. terminates contract with hospice society refusing assisted death

Delta Hospice Society loses hospital service fund of $1.5 million

Child in hospital following fatal crash that killed father, sibling on B.C. highway

The single vehicle crash occured near Kamloops on Highway 5A

‘Die!’: Vernon councillor mailed death threat

This story contains information that might be sensitive to some readers

B.C. landlord can’t serve eviction notice because tenant is in jail

Homeowner baffled at arbitrator decision based on notice of hearing not being served properly

Hidden message connects Castlegar homeowners decades apart

The Rodgers family was surprised when a message fell out of the walls as they were renovating

Most Read