Cleanup of Chilliwack homeless camp finds more than 1,300 discarded needles

Cleanup of Chilliwack homeless camp finds more than 1,300 discarded needles
Huge piles of garbage — everything from laptops, bike parts, and old batteries — have been collected from the former campsite.

“It kept getting larger and larger as far as the encampment was concerned,” Chilliwack angler Rick Jessome said.

So much garbage has been collected that a helicopter has been brought in to move it out of the area.

Most worrying is the huge number of discarded needles that have been found at the site — more than 1,300 at last count.

Once a popular spot for families and fishermen, some say the area became a hot spot for hostility, drug use and theft.

“Sometimes there were confrontations with the residents that took up shelter here,” Jessome said. “You didn’t know if you wanted to go through there or not.”

After trespass notices were issued nearly two weeks ago, residents of the camp left without incident.

With water levels rising, crews rushed in to clean up the area so the trash wouldn’t be swept into the river.

“Just the thought of having needles or propane canisters or other garbage or debris or contaminants entering the stream would be absolutely catastrophic,” natural resources officer Kyle Bueckert said.

Residents say such camps are becoming all too familiar. A homeless camp was cleared from the area in March along with 17,000 pounds of garbage.

Bueckert said the camp returned because this year’s wildfires stretched his office’s resources thin.

“Unfortunately, since there weren’t enough of us and not enough presence around there, the individuals, or some of the individuals, came back to the river and set up camp again,” he said.

Some are asking the province to do more to help the homeless and protect the river, an important waterway for several species of fish and wildlife.

“You know, it’s sad, [the homeless] need somewhere to go but the river is not the right place,” resident Vicky Fuller said.
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Hypodermic needles that were recovered from the Merrimack River in 2016, are seen at the Clean River Facility facility in Methuen, Mass. on Wednesday June 7, 2017. AP /...
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