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Abbotsford police seeing increase in multi-generational homelessness

Abbotsford, B.C. -

Jim Kelly, 68, has been living in an encampment off Highway 1 in Abbotsford for about six months.

Recently, his 41-year-old son moved there too.

“I just came up here about three weeks ago since I got my finger cut off,” said Tyler Kelly.

He was looking for safety when he moved into the encampment after he said he was assaulted while staying at a shelter.

“I came up to him for comfort and someone to watch over me while I’m sleeping in case they come back and try to do something else to me,” said the 41-year-old.

Father and son both say they use fentanyl.

They both live in a tent.

“Sometimes it’s pretty sad, I guess, would be the best way to describe it,” Jim Kelly said when asked what it was like to live in the encampment.

Police say the tragedy of inter-generational homelessness is a growing one, and something they didn’t see 10 to 15 years ago.

“It’s extremely common for the children of individuals who are homeless to become homeless in their adult lives," said Jesse Wegenast of Sparrow Community Care Society. "Oftentimes, these are individuals who spend a good portion of their childhood, youth, in the foster system, which predisposes someone to homelessness."

“One thing that we’ve all been learning more about is intergenerational trauma and a lot of the things that can lead an individual to become homeless are often things that caused their parents to be homeless,” he said.

Abbotsford Police Department Insp. Kevin Murray believes part of the problem stems from a foster system that ages children out at 18.

“I don’t know too many 18-year-olds not in foster care moving out of their homes,” he said. “Yet we’re going to take kids who were vulnerable to begin with … we’re going to take those people and unleash them to the world without follow-up.”

He believes children in care shouldn’t age out of the system until they are 21.

“It’s almost like an intergenerational recidivism into homelessness,” said Wegenast. “I don’t think there’s any magic bullet on how to break that cycle, but I can tell you that allowing parents to invest in their kids no matter where in life they are, data shows that’s very positive for kids." Top Stories

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