MAPLE RIDGE (NEWS 1130) — The site of a tent-city in Maple Ridge is uninhabited for the first time in over two years.
The city is applauding the fact that the remaining residents of Anita Place have been relocated to a temporary modular housing project that opened Tuesday and looking forward to proceeding with plans for a park.
Meanwhile, an advocate says the clearing of the camp is actually a setback for people experiencing homelessness in the area.
Ivan Drury with Alliance Against Displacement says while Anita Place existed, people had a relatively safe, warm and dry option.
“Instead of that they’re now scattered out into the bushes in the surrounding area, or stuck sleeping in the alleys or doorways of the city of Maple Ridge,” he says.
The last homeless count for Maple Ridge was in 2017. It found 124 people experiencing homelessness. Drury says even though residents of Anita Place have been moved to modular housing, there are still upwards of 100 people who don’t have anywhere to go and the city’s two shelters routinely turn people away because they are packed to capacity.
“Unfortunately, the closure of Anita Place tent city is not good news because it has not solved the problem of homelessness in Maple Ridge or in any of the surrounding areas,” he says.
Although 120 units of housing have been built in Maple Ridge, Drury says those units are by definition temporary and are not a substitute for permanent, social housing.
“We’ve won that housing through the struggle of homeless people themselves in Anita Place tent city but it’s unfortunately very partial because this modular housing is temporary. It’s very quickly going to degenerate,” he explains, adding the housing imposes conditions on residents that make it overly institutional.
The camp was set up in 2017 by the Alliance Against Displacement after the closure of a nearby shelter. The site was the subject of protests in Maple Ridge –among neighbours who wanted the homeless gone, and among others who wanted to support them. The clearing of the camp began in February, 2019 when B.C.’s Supreme Court granted an injunction allowing the city to remove electrical connections, fuels and other things deemed fire hazards. It also allowed Maple Ridge to identify camp occupants to figure out who needed housing and other services.
“It has been a long road and I would like to thank residents for their patience and understanding as our City followed the required legal process to close the camp permanently,” said Mayor Mike Morden in a release.
Mayor Morden says work to clear the site of any remaining “structures and debris” will be swift so work on a park can begin.