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Lonzo camp: Will Abbotsford's new temporary shelter open on time?

Abbotsford, B.C. -

Her name is Laura.

And like hundreds of other homeless people in Abbotsford, she lives in a makeshift shelter in the bush.

But it wasn’t supposed to be this way.

“Winter’s coming and not having our trailer anymore, it’s going to be a lot harder for us to stay warm,” she said.

When CTV News first met Laura six months ago, her home was a decrepit trailer at a notorious, crime-ridden encampment called Lonzo.

“I have a bunch of rats running around, no running water,” she told CTV News back in March.

Back then, CTV News reported the concerns of police, the City of Abbotsford and the community about the violence, fires and crime in the camp and surrounding area.

A few months later, the province promised action, shutting down the camp.

Housing Minister Ravi Kahlon announced a new temporary shelter to be built at the site by the end of the year.

But there is still no sign of construction underway at the site. And that’s a concern.

“With the cold weather coming up, people are getting very, very worried about where they’re going to be able to stay,” said Josh Burton, program manager for CEDAR Outreach.

The provincial government, however, has promised that work will begin in a few weeks and maintains that modular housing units, which are being built elsewhere, will be at the Lonzo location and open by the end of the year.

In recent months, new encampments have sprung up in Abbotsford, while some existing ones have ballooned in size.

“We’ve … seen an enormous increase in the number of people camping at other Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure lands,” explained Abbotsford police Insp. Kevin Murray, listing off several camp locations alongside Highway 1, including the areas around the McCallum, Clearbrook and Peardonville exits.

“We don’t have a lot of enforcement power on Ministry of Transportation land,” he explained, adding that police only take action when the camps are in an unsafe area or if the ministry steps in.

Outreach workers, along with Abbotsford police officers from the Community Engagement Response Team, go into the camps to try and connect with people and link them to appropriate community services.

“We’re just trying to build a strong rapport with those people there,” said Burton. “We try to provide some basic needs at the outset, whether that’s harm reduction supplies, clothing, food, water."

He also said that “with the current housing crisis and slow vacancy of beds, it is quite challenging to get people inside.”

The province told CTV News that before Lonzo was shut down, everyone was offered shelter, but some people turned down the offer.

However, an outreach worker said that while efforts were made, there were not enough beds to go around.

Laura was one of those who was offered a shelter space. But she didn’t stay there long.

She ended up moving into a new camp, not far from the old Lonzo encampment.

Laura, who has been on the streets six years, battles addiction.

“I still use fentanyl and methamphetamine,” she said.

She overdosed just a couple days ago.

“I’m OK,” she said.

Outreach workers and police offered assistance and called for additional assistance on the day CTV News was at her camp.

But even with the offers of help, it’s clear there is no easy path for Laura out of addiction and poverty. Top Stories

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