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Maple Ridge councillor says clearing of tent city puts city in bind

Last Updated Jan 26, 2021 at 11:18 pm PST

MAPLE RIDGE (NEWS 1130) — The clearing of a tent city in Maple Ridge two years ago came at a cost to the city and one councillor says the city is barely keeping its head above water as criticism about housing solutions continue.

Photos posted to social media by City Councillor Chelsa Meadus show two images: on the left, a pothole captioned “this is my fault,” and a photo of the homeless on the right under text that reads, “this is not my fault.”

“Call me to fix your road, help with recreation, get your road plowed but call your MLA if you don’t like what you see on the right.”

Meadus explains her photos are a plea to citizens.

“I’m having to decide between putting a really amazing park into our community or community safety. And it’s not a choice I really should be making.”

In 2019 tent city Anita Place was cleared out, and residents were relocated to temporary modular housing. Meadus says the province has not yet paid the city back for the clearing — which cost $1.4 million.

“We carry that burden as well as these additional costs, and I feel the community starting to break,” she tells CityNews. “For me as a councillor, it’s becoming super frustrating to be in this two years now and not really seeing a partnership happening, and that’s what I am hoping for.”

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Meadus says she is overwhelmed with calls from people concerned about the homeless community, but she continues to point to the province, saying it’s the MLAs residents that should be complaining too.

“Just reminding people although we are here to help, we really have ventured outside of our lane. Ultimately these social challenges lie at the foot of the province, and we want to be partners with them, but we cannot bear the burden of all the challenges going on in our community nor, can we fund the solutions.”

But community outreach workers like Tracy Scott disagrees with Meadus.

Scott says it’s everyone’s responsibility when lifting up a city’s most vulnerable population.

“I don’t understand. They are the town, they are the mayor’s group. We do bring topics to help the town grow. That means you are there to help us with anything that we ask. You can’t just pass the buck.”

Meadus adds she will continue to pick up the phone to seek out solutions but says as of right now, her city is “drowning.”

“As a city councillor, I should be focused on recreation, infrastructure, parks — all of these things are really what my time should be spent on. I am halfway through my term and that is a very small piece of what the focus has been: it has been on our social challenges, addiction and homelessness, mental health crisis, helping our businesses that are experiencing this, and it feels like maybe the pandemic has made it worse and we don’t have the resources to do this on our own.”