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Some homeless people choose to keep sleeping outside in cold

ABBOTSFORD (NEWS1130) – Keeping warm during this cold stretch isn’t as simple as adding an extra layer or cranking up the heat for dozens of people in the Fraser Valley. There are several makeshift campsites people are calling home in the region.

“It’s hard to say definitely what the homeless numbers are, but on Gladys Avenue alone, I can think of 30 or 40 people who have been sleeping on that street on a regular basis,” 5 and 2 Ministries Pastor Ward Draper tells News1130. “Plus, there are camps that go all the way to Mission and Aldergrove.”

One of the camps on Gladys Avenue has been the subject of much public scrutiny since chicken manure was scattered over the grounds earlier this year.

Six people who live there have filed a human rights complaint against the City of Abbotsford. A few months after the incident, the city served the campers an eviction notice and ordered them to leave. The residents packed up and moved about a hundred feet down the road and set up another camp, where they’ve been ever since.

There is an emergency shelter nearby, but Draper says many people choose to sleep outside. “There are numerous factors, like people don’t want to leave their possessions.”

“I mean, would you leave your place unlocked when you go somewhere else? There are also barriers with policies in existing shelters, which can make it prohibitive for some people who want to inside. Many shelters have an ‘if you’re in, you’re in policy.’ That means you can’t go for a walk or do what you want to do.”

The wind chill is expected to make it feel like minus-20 in the Fraser Valley over the weekend.

Draper is calling for a new approach to make shelters a more attractive option for the homeless, especially when the temperatures drop below freezing.