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

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.”

Just Posted

Chilliwack secondary school’s principal is apologizing after a quote equating graduation with the end of slavery in the U.S. was included in the 2020-2021 yearbook. (Screenshot from submitted SnapChat)
Student’s quote in Chilliwack high school yearbook equates graduation with end of slavery

Black former student ‘disgusted’ as CSS principal apologizes for what is called an editing error

Alexis Paige Simpson has not been in contact with her family in two months. (RCMP photo)
Chilliwack RCMP looking for missing 20-year-old woman

Police say Alexis Paige Simpson has not been in contact with her family in two months

(Maps.Chilliwack.com)
RCMP seek dash-cam footage after Chilliwack road rage incident

Male driving a black pickup stopped and allegedly threatened to punch another driver

Doses prepared at pop-up vaccine clinic in Toronto’s Jane and Finch neighbourhood, in the M3N postal code, on Saturday, April 17, 2021. ( THE CANADIAN PRESS/Cole Burston)
4 vaccine clinics coming to Neighbourhood Learning Centre

Fraser Health made clinics ‘low-barrier’ meaning pre-registration not required

Deepak Sharma of Abbotsford has been convicted of the sexual assault of one of his cab passengers in West Vancouver in January 2019.
Former Abbotsford Hindu temple president convicted of sexual assault

Deepak Sharma assaulted a female passenger when he was a cab driver

The border crossing into the United States is seen during the COVID-19 pandemic in Lacolle, Que. on February 12, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
VIDEO: Border quarantine to soon lift for fully vaccinated Canadians

Eligible travellers must still take multiple COVID-19 tests

Skeena MLA Ellis Ross. (Photo by Peter Versteege)
BC Liberal leadership candidate condemns ‘senseless violence’ of Okanagan church fires

Skeena MLA Ellis Ross says reconciliation isn’t about revenge for past tragedies

A coroner’s inquest will be taking place at the Capitol Theatre in Port Alberni for the next week. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)
Teen B.C. mom who died following police custody recalled as ‘friend to many’

Police sent Jocelyn George to hospital after intoxication had gone ‘beyond the realm’ of normal detox

FILE - In this Nov. 29, 2020, file photo, Las Vegas Raiders defensive end Carl Nassib leaves the field after an NFL football game against the Atlanta Falcons in Atlanta. Nassib on Monday, June 21, 2021, became the first active NFL player to come out as gay. Nassib announced the news on Instagram, saying he was not doing it for the attention but because “I just think that representation and visibility are so important.” (AP Photo/John Bazemore, File)
Nassib becomes first active NFL player to come out as gay

More than a dozen NFL players have come out as gay after their careers were over

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Penticton Indian Band Chief Greg Gabriel speaks to the Sacred Hearts Catholic Church burning down early Monday morning, June 21, 2021. (Monique Tamminga Western News)
Penticton band chief condemns suspicious burning of 2 Catholic churches

Both Catholic church fires are deemed suspicious, says RCMP

COVID-19 daily cases reported to B.C. public health, seven-day moving average to June 17, 2021. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infections drop to 90 on Sunday, 45 Monday

Pandemic spread dwindles as 77% of adults receive vaccine

By protesting uninvited in First Nations’ territories, conservationists are acting in a neocolonial or paternalistic manner, says Huu-ay-aht Chief Robert Dennis. Photo by Heather Thomson
A closer look: do Vancouver Island First Nations support the war in the woods?

First Nations/environmentalist old growth alliance uneasy, if it exists at all

One Reconciliation Pole and two Welcome Figures were unveiled during a ceremony in honour of truth and reconciliation on National Peoples Indigenous Day at the Vancouver School District in Vancouver, B.C., on Friday, June 21, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Horgan marks Indigenous Peoples Day by urging recognition of systemic racism

National Indigenous Peoples Day has been marked in Canada since 1996

Most Read