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'This has looked like a war zone for years': What's next for Abbotsford’s most dangerous homeless camp?

B.C.’s housing minister promises “big changes” are coming to Abbotsford’s most dangerous homeless camp.

But critics aren’t buying it, saying the province has known about the notorious encampment for years and done nothing.

“This has looked like a war zone for years now,” said Bruce Banman, B.C. United MLA for Abbotsford-South.

“This government is really good at making announcements, but they absolutely suck at putting the deliverables on the ground,” he said.

“Lonzo Camp”, which sits on provincially owned land, is filled with burned-out RV’s and garbage. Police have seized everything from guns to machetes and knives at the encampment.

Abbotsford Police say they have been called to the encampment and surrounding area 715 times so far in 2023.

“Since 2015, my understanding is the police have had 10,000 interactions in this location or right around it,” Banman said.

Abbotsford Fire Rescue says they have responded to more than 850 incidents related to homelessness this year in the city, with 137 of those at the Lonzo camp. It’s estimated that in 2022, the cost of responding to calls in the Lonzo Road area cost Abbotsford taxpayers $242,000.

The province has been aware of city and policing concerns at the camp for years.

While police continue to address criminal incidents in the camp, the province has not asked police for assistance in cleaning up the camp.

In March, Housing Minister Ravi Kahlon told CTV News his ministry was working with the city to find solutions.

But months later, little seems to have changed.

On Tuesday, however, Kahlon said help is on the way.

“Within a couple weeks, we’ll have the details of a plan and action being taken. We know it’s not safe for the individuals in the encampment. We know it’s not safe for the community. We have to have change there,” he said.

“We wanted to ensure though that we didn’t just displace people. We wanted to ensure that there were options available for individuals so they had somewhere to go when we did take the next steps and that’s what we’re finalizing right now,” the minister added.

He said some steps have already been taken to address homeless issues in Abbotsford.

“We purchased motels. We’re looking at what short-term solutions we can provide for people and also what medium-term solutions we can provide for people,” Kahlon said.

The city says there are about 20 people living in the Lonzo camp.

One of them is Paul Shearer, who turns 79 this week.

“I don’t like it here at all, scares me. All these (other) people are on drugs,” said Shearer, who said he does not struggle with addictions issues.

“Some of them can barely walk. They can’t talk. And it’s scary as hell,” he said.

Shearer said he’s been living at the Lonzo homeless camp about four months since losing his job on a dairy farm and having to move off his RV.

He said he’s trying to find farm work again and hopes he won’t be at the camp long.

“I don’t feel safe at all,” he said.

Some other campers, who didn’t want to be identified, said the camp is not as bad as people have said.

One camper said a violent person who had been living there has moved and that has made it less dangerous. Campers also said people from the community use the encampment as a dumping ground for garbage.

Meanwhile, Banman said the problems at Lonzo, situated alongside a stream, are also environmental.

“We’ve got reports of open sewage from the motorhomes flowing into the creek,” he said. Top Stories

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