'I don't see an end at this point': The struggle to shut down a violent homeless camp in Abbotsford
It’s the largest and most violent homeless camp in Abbotsford and a weekly source of complaints to police.
Years after the site first sprang up, many wonder if what’s known as the Lonzo camp will ever be shut down.
On one side of the encampment, there are burned-out RVs and decrepit trailers, like the one a woman named Laura calls home.
“It’s worn down. I have a bunch of rats running around, no running water,” she said.
The 26-year-old told CTV News she ended up living on the streets in B.C. after fleeing an abusive relationship in another province.
On the other side of the site, there are tents and makeshift shelters, mostly tucked away from public view.
The property is littered with bike parts, used needles and garbage.
“You have lots of garbage here. You have rotting food. You have different pockets of people that might not get along with each other,” explained Sgt. Paul Walker of the Abbotsford Police Department as he walked through the area.
“I don’t see an end at this point,” he said.
Police say the Lonzo encampment has been growing—and so too have its problems.
Last year, Abbotsford Fire Rescue responded to 322 calls at the camp and police responded to 106 calls for violent crime in the area.
Over the years, officers have seized weapons of all sorts, which police say were sometimes brought by unwanted guests.
“We’re having weapons such as knifes, axes, assault involving those things, firearms that are being taken out of here, both real and imitation, weapons of opportunity, bear spray,” said Walker.
Walker also said crime has been spilling into the surrounding community.
“You have people that are running their businesses, trying to provide, pay the bills…but then they’re getting victimized by people that are in this camp,” Walker said.
Police responded to close to 1,600 calls in the area in 2022.
While officers continue to tackle criminal behavior in the encampment, both police and the municipal government lack the ability to shut the camp down.
“This homeless camp here at Lonzo is on Ministry of Transportation lands. Our city bylaws don’t apply to that property,” Walker said.
For more than a week, CTV News tried to speak with Transportation Minister Rob Fleming, but were told he was unavailable.
In a statement, his ministry said it is working with other ministries “to provide outreach and to find safer, more suitable housing options and supports.”
Abbotsford’s mayor says the province is well aware of the community’s struggles.
“We’re aggressively pursuing some alternative housing options and looking at how we clean that up,” said Ross Siemens.
B.C.’s housing minister said he has visited the Lonzo encampment and ensured help is on the way.
Ravi Kahlon said 408 units of affordable housing are under development in Abbotsford, though it’s not clear when they will open.
“We know that area, especially around Lonzo, needs to be cleaned up. We’ve been working closely with mayor and council to find a solution for housing for those that need it, and working on ways to get rid of the criminal element that seems to be plaguing that area as well,” Kahlon said.
Some campers at Lonzo have previously been moved into housing, according to Kahlon, decreasing the number of people currently living in the camp.
But Laura said while she’d much rather be in housing, it hasn’t been an option.
“I’ve been on a list for three years now and I haven’t been offered housing once,” she said.
She isn’t sure what scares her most, battling a drug addiction, or living in a place like Lonzo.
“I came to the realization that it’s either you keep doing the drugs and it will kill you, or you’re going to be here and something bad’s going to happen and that will kill you,” she said.
Vancouver Top Stories
CTVNews.ca Top Stories
Hundreds of American firefighters arrive in Canada to help battle wildfires
Hundreds of American firefighters have recently arrived in Canada to help battle wildfires and more are on the way, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Wednesday.
Can face masks help protect you from wildfire smoke? Health expert explains
An official recommendation to wear a mask to protect yourself from wildfire smoke is being echoed by health experts as plumes of smoke make their way across parts of Canada, causing poor air quality.
Here's how major cities in Canada and the U.S. look blanketed by wildfire smoke
Photos show smoke-filled skies in cities across Canada and the U.S. as air quality warnings were issued in wake of the hundreds of wildfires from Quebec and Ontario.
'Very, very hard to breathe': Experts call wildfires a 'major public health concern' for Canada
As forest fires rage across the country, experts are sounding the alarm over the physical and psychological impacts of the wildfires and saying that they pose a serious public health issue, which individuals and governments need to acknowledge and act upon.
WATCH | Rate hike 'may be the last straw' for some homeowners: mortgage broker
With the latest hike bringing Canada's key interest rates to levels not seen since 2001, one mortgage broker is warning that it may be 'the last straw' for some homeowners with variable mortgages.
Canadians more likely to support foreign interference inquiry than hearings: Nanos
Canadians are twice as likely to support a formal inquiry into foreign interference, as opposed to public hearings, according to new polling from Nanos Research for CTV News.
opinion | Eight takeaways from Prince Harry's seven hours on the witness stand
It's been a busy, tumultuous few days for Prince Harry, the Duke of Sussex as he took his place on the witness stand in his trial against the Mirror Group Newspapers. Here are royal commentator Afua Hagan's top takeaways from his two-day grilling.
Calgary mass killer Matthew de Grood seeks 'absolute discharge'
The man who was found not criminally responsible in the stabbing deaths of five people at a house party in Brentwood more than nine years ago is seeking more freedoms.
Trudeau shows no interest in compromising with Meta, Google over online news bill
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is showing no interest in compromising with Meta and Google over a Liberal bill that would make them pay for Canadian journalism that helps the companies generate revenue.
Extended highway closure expected due to wildfire near Port Alberni
There's no end in sight for the closure of Highway 4 on Vancouver Island – the only highway leading to the communities of Port Alberni, Tofino and Ucluelet – due to a wildfire burning in the area.
Busload of B.C. students stranded by wildfire spend the night inside Vancouver Island high school
A busload of high school students were finally heading home to Nanaimo on Wednesday after they were stranded by a raging wildfire that forced them to spend the night inside a Port Alberni high school.
Speed and alcohol likely factors in fatal Nanaimo crash
A 33-year-old man from Nanaimo is dead after a single-vehicle crash south of the city Tuesday.
Council reconsiders decision to reject recommendations on affordability crisis
Calgary city council has reconsidered its decision to vote against recommendations made by an expert panel to address the city’s housing affordability crisis.
Man on mobility scooter hit by truck in northeast Calgary intersection
Police say a man on a mobility scooter has life-altering injuries after he was struck by a vehicle in a northeast Calgary intersection on Wednesday evening.
Hot, dry weather comes with cautions and a few benefits
Calgary was under a heat warning Wednesday with forecast high of 29C.
Albertans asked to conserve electricity Wednesday evening due to hot temperatures
Hot temperatures across Alberta prompted a grid alert Wednesday afternoon.
'A long time coming': Edmonton Catholics commit $3.2M to Indigenous reconciliation fund
The Archdiocese of Edmonton will spend $3.2 million on reconciliation initiatives with First Nations, Métis and Inuit people in the Alberta capital region.
'Major travel delays': Anthony Henday Drive bridge will be closed this weekend
Drivers are being asked to find another way or prepare for delays on the Henday this weekend, because crews need to close a bridge over the North Saskatchewan River.
consumer, | Toronto woman 'horrified' after losing $95,000 to romance scam
Romance scams have always been around, but they got worse during the pandemic, and fraudsters continue to use social media and dating sites to find victims.
Number of Ontario forest fires doubled compared to same time last year
Ontario has already experienced double the number of forest fires this year compared to the same six months in 2022.
Alleged Toronto anti-cyclist road rage incident caught on camera
Toronto police are investigating an incident of alleged road rage against a cyclist that was caught on camera.
Ontario man charged with first-degree murder in killing of Claudia Iacono outside Montreal salon
An Ontario man has been charged with first-degree murder in the death of Claudia Iacono, the daughter-in-law of Mafia associate Moreno Gallo, after she was gunned down at the wheel of her car in Montreal last month.
Woman, 55, dies after vehicle strikes 2 pedestrians in Cote-des-Neiges; second pedestrian seriously injured
A pedestrian has died after she and a fellow pedestrian were both hit by a vehicle Wednesday afternoon in Montreal's Cote-des-Neiges neighbourhood.
More evacuations in Quebec as record-breaking fires continue to burn
Quebec's wildfire season, which has forced thousands from their homes and left other communities on high alert, is the worst on record, officials said Wednesday,
Trustee suspended over posts targeting LGBTQ2S+ community, division says
A Manitoba school trustee has been suspended over social media posts the division says targeted the LGBTQ2S+ community.
Continued closure of Fort Gibraltar causing changes for soon to be married couples
The closure of Fort Gibraltar following the collapse of an elevated walkway that sent 16 students and one teacher to hospital has left some couples scrambling to find a place to get married.
Crash with stolen vehicle sends two Winnipeg officers to hospital
A section of Main Street is closed on Wednesday morning following a car crash in the area.
Saskatoon property taxes could see 13 per cent hike as city confronts $75M revenue gap
Significant property tax hikes may be needed to cover a funding shortfall, according to City of Saskatoon administration.
Saskatoon builder looking to flip abandoned homes to first time buyers
A Saskatoon man wants to play matchmaker for the unloved homes in the city.
Latest season of survivalist series 'Alone' filmed in Sask., set to premiere June 8
The rugged wilderness of northern Saskatchewan was host to survivalists from all walks of life, vying to win the top prize of the popular series 'Alone.'
Future uncertain for residents of bulldozed Regina homeless camp
The dwellings of around a dozen Regina residents experiencing homelessness were bulldozed after calls from the property owner.
Less than 50% of Indigenous students graduate from provincial schools, report says
Indigenous graduation rates are sliding in the province, according to Saskatchewan’s provincial auditor.
Regina city council asks for debt limit increase
Regina city council has asked its administration to pursue permission from the Saskatchewan Municipal Board (SMB) to increase its debt limit to $780 million.
'This is not helping': Frustrated evacuees say official communication lacking in wildfire recovery
Frustration is building among some people from neighbourhoods hardest-hit by the fires near Halifax. CTV's Heidi Petracek reports.
A 'whole list of hazards' are keeping residents near N.S. fire zones under evacuation: officials
It is still not safe for some evacuated residents whose houses were spared from wildfire damage to return home, officials from Halifax Regional Municipality and the District of Shelburne said.
Halifax support workers strike impacting students and families
The father of disabled teen from Fall River, N.S. is calling on all sides to get back to the bargaining table and put an end to the Halifax area CUPE educational support worker strike.
VIDEO | 'Hate and discrimination have no place in any TVDSB schools': Investigation underway after pride flag torn down
Students at Sir Frederick Banting Secondary School in London, Ont. are being investigated after a video was posted online showing students tearing down a LGBTQ2S+ pride flag.
Special air quality statement remains in effect, rain possible over the weekend
As wildfire smoke blankets Ontario and eastern U.S., causing hazardous air quality and hazy skies, smoke in the Forest City is expected to remain until at least Thursday night.
City pitches new parking garage and extended free parking to aid downtown London, Ont.’s recovery
Since early in the COVID-19 pandemic, the Honk Mobile Parking App has offered two hours of free municipal parking in London’s core area business districts.
Wildfire west of Sudbury prompts evacuation order, total active fires in northern Ont. grows to 54
A northern Ontario forest fire that started west of Sudbury on Sunday morning has grown to more than 1,000 hectares and has prompted officials to issue an evacuation order for the immediate area as the number of active fires in the region grows.
Spreading wildfires prompt northeastern communities to evacuate
Communities affected by wildfires in the region are evacuating for safety reasons. The province says there is significant danger as several out-of-control wildfires affect air quality and physical safety.
‘Incompetent’ northern Ont. doctor loses his license to practise medicine
A northern Ontario doctor has been stripped of his medical licence for conduct described as “disgraceful, dishonourable or unprofessional.”
Poor air quality in Waterloo region and Guelph will continue into the weekend: Environment Canada
There's high levels of air pollution in Waterloo region and Wellington County as smoke plumes from wildfires burning in Quebec and northeastern Ontario continue to blow into the region, Environment Canada says.
Six Region of Waterloo councillors announce support for amalgamation
One unified city – that’s what six Region of Waterloo councillors say they want when it comes to the future of the region’s municipal governance.
Habitat for Humanity nears completion of new affordable housing units
The work never stops at Habitat for Humanity when it comes to building affordable homes for families in Waterloo region.