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Conflicts with street people drive business away from downtown Maple Ridge

Gold Rush Jewellers owner said daily clashes are forcing him to move the store
Adnan Polat and his wife Gamze of Gold Rush Jewellers is planning to move the business due to run-ins with homeless people. (Neil Corbett/The News)

A longtime Maple Ridge jewelry store is leaving its location on 224th Street due to constant conflict with street people.

Adnan Polat has owned Gold Rush Jewellers near the Lougheed Highway for two and a half years, and he compares his current situation to running a business in Vancouver’s notorious Downtown East Side.

He has been in a physical confrontation, been threatened with a needle, had a knife pulled on him, been spat on, and regularly has to ask street people if they can hang out someplace else. The reception he gets from them varies widely.

Polat is the latest business owner to leave the downtown area citing homeless people impacting his business.

READ ALSO: Maple Ridge entrepreneurs say homeless, addicts killing business

READ ALSO: Needles, drugs and feces reasons for another downtown Maple Ridge business closure

Gold Rush has been there for more than 25 years. Polat is a goldsmith who long ago worked in Vancouver with the former owner, who asked him to take the business over on his retirement.

Soon he started to have homeless people squatting around his business, taking shelter under the eaves of his building, particularly on rainy days.

They openly use drugs, and are intimidating to his customers, he said. Some customers coming to pick up items call him to meet them in the parking lot, because they are afraid to walk in. They leave behind drug paraphernalia and other garbage, they defecate, and they have damaged his building.

Trying to get them to move causes problems, and sometimes they simply move to a location that will disrupt a different business.

“One day doesn’t go by without an incident,” he said. “I can’t do business.”

He is appreciative of Westridge Security and the city’s Community Safety Officers, whom he finds the most responsive.

“They are the only ones helping, but they can only do so much,” he said. “Some just refuse to leave.”

READ ALSO: Maple Ridge looks to hire more Community Safety Officers

He’s had street people tell him to go ahead and call the police.

“The guy does drugs in front of the police officer, and he’s waiting for them to finish,” he says, shaking his head.

“We don’t want to make a million dollars, we’re just trying to get by,” he said.

“It’s getting worse. The best thing for me is to move on.”

Polat has spoken to the city CSOs about the problem, and to city councillor Ahmed Yousef.

Before he was on council, Yousef appeared before Mayor Nicole Read’s council to complain about homeless people impacting downtown entrepreneurs in 2017.

READ ALSO: Maple Ridge business owners feel threatened by homeless

It appears little has changed, and Yousef blames senior government.

“It’s a dire situation we’re seeing with our downtown businesses,” he told The News recently. “We are running our businesses out of town.”

He too appreciates the security company, and the Downtown Maple Ridge Business Association, which he said is supporting operators.

Yousef said senior government policies in B.C. that have decriminalized possession of hard drugs, and allow people to use hard drugs in public, are not slowing homelessness or the crisis of opioid overdoses.

“We continue to feed the fire, and complain about it when it gets hot,” he said. “But people are still dying in record numbers.”

“What kind of society is this?” he asked. “What kind of system is this? It’s not compassionate – they’re not living their best lives.”

He noted that downtown businesses get to know members of the homeless community, and find there are regularly new faces on the street – new people arriving. He noted the downtown is surrounded by facilities for street people, because the province has installed low-barrier supportive housing facilities north of the downtown at Alouette Heights, east at Garibaldi Ridge, and south at Royal Crescent. There is also the Salvation Army shelter to the west.

“You’ve triangulated our downtown core,” he said.

Yousef noted that the current council will review the Community Social Safety Initiative programs, and he hopes they identify more effective services for downtown businesses.

He would like to see changes made before this summer.

”When people are here for the BC Summer Games, and to celebrate our 150th [anniversary], what are they going to see?”

Neil Corbett

About the Author: Neil Corbett

I have been a journalist for more than 30 years, the past decade with the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows News.
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