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Something had to be done about Abbotsford homeless, resident says

Frank Johnstone, a homeless truck driver, walks through a treed area near his tent where Abbotsford, B.C., officials spread a load of chicken maneure in an effort to keep homeless people from living there.

Jeff Vinnick/The Globe and Mail

The mayor has apologized for a decision by municipal officials to dump chicken manure on the site of a local homeless camp, but one nearby resident says something had to be done because her life has turned into a nightmare as a result of the squatters.

The resident, who lives near the camp but is too afraid to be identified publicly, said her family's life has been "destroyed" in recent years, with homeless people sleeping under her window, defecating in her garden, trying to enter her home and leaving hypodermic needles on her property.

The woman, who was contacted by The Canadian Press, said she's seen some people engage in public sexual acts nearby and the situation has become so bad she can't sell her home and friends are too fearful to visit.

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"I almost ended up in the hospital with a nervous breakdown over this," said the resident of about 25 years who added the problems began when the Salvation Army moved into a nearby building several years ago.

"The only thing I can do is to stay out of my front yard. I don't even mow my lawn. I don't even look at it. I stay in the back of the house. I can't even walk down my driveway."

The Salvation Army did not respond to a request for an interview.

However, the city announced Thursday it had removed the manure from the site, and Mayor Bruce Banman apologized for the hurt the manure dumping caused the community.

"Our focus right now is on the public who have been impacted by this situation and repairing our relationship with the homeless community," he said in a statement.

Neither Banman nor city manager George Murray was available for an interview.

In a separate statement, Murray apologized in a statement and also took responsibility for how the city dealt with the issue, adding officials would be working with community partners to resolve the situation.

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The local resident who lives near the camp said she has spoken to the mayor and city councillors about the problem.

While she supports people who are mentally ill and homeless, she said a small percentage are dangerous, and she blamed the problem partly on the provincial government for shutting down institutions that used to offer treatment.

Constable Ian MacDonald of the Abbotsford Police Department called the Salvation Army a good partner and resource, and he said police don't consider the area one of the hardest hit in the city for property or violent crimes.

"Crime certainly can show up in clusters around the city, but I'm not aware of a clustering of property or violent crime in that specific area. I'm sure we do get, you know, incidences there, as we do in other parts of the city."

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