Maple Ridge homeless camp taken down
Published Friday, September 13, 2019 8:54PM PDT
Crews worked throughout the day Friday to dismantle the notorious Anita Place homeless camp in Maple Ridge.
Mayor Michael Morden told CTV News Vancouver the closure of the tent city and removal of remaining belongings marked the end of "a pretty ugly chapter" for the neighbourhood on Burnett Street near Lougheed Highway.
"We've got way more than we can handle from a policing, administrative, hospital perspective," Morden said. "We're overrun."
At one time, the camp was home to as many as 50 people. Many of them were offered space at a new modular housing facility a few blocks away, but that building and other nearby shelters are at capacity.
Former campers showed up throughout the day Friday, only to be turned away by security and police officers, often in heated confrontations.
Dozens of people, heavy equipment, and countless dump trucks were involved in the clean-up, which Morden called "the completion of a court order."
Despite this, residents of the neighbourhood say the issue is far from resolved.
"We have enough low barrier shelters," said James Seip, who lives nearby. "We need healthy options in Maple Ridge with wrap around services."
Seip said the community is paying the price for the lack of such services with a spike in crime.
"We're not against homeless people at all, we're against the ripple effect that the homeless are bringing to our communities," he said.
In recent weeks, Seip and other residents have been taking matters into their own hands, bringing what they believe to be abandoned belongings to the dump.
"What we're doing is not displacing anybody," he said. "We're cleaning up after them."
Homeless advocates say this amounts to vigilante justice.
"This is something that's been going on for years, but there seems to have been an increase recently," said Chris Bossley, an advocate for the homeless.
"This is not the job of our citizens, this is the job of bylaw (officers), police," she said.
Bossley said some homeless people in Maple Ridge believe it is other homeless people who are taking their belongings, which has the potential to lead to violence.
Ridge Meadows RCMP did not respond to requests for comment about this issue of residents taking allegedly abandoned property from homeless people. A police file has been opened, however, and security is expected to remain at the scene for several days.
With files from CTV News Vancouver's Regan Hasegawa