Advocates for homeless people at Anita Place Tent City say they are in talks with the provincial government about permanent solutions to the camp.
Ivan Drury, of the Alliance Against Displacement, was at the camp during Wednesday’s downpour.
He said he has spoken with B.C. Housing, and given it the Alliance’s proposal – 200 modular units as a temporary solution, to be followed by permanent housing.
He sees the new NDP government’s announcement to fund the delivery and operation of 2,000 modular housing units as part of the solution.
“Not as the end solution, but as a first step,” said Drury.
“Because people should not be stuck in that modular housing forever.”
He will get a reaction to his plan next week at a meeting. He does not expect Maple Ridge council to be part of that meeting.
“Council has been also in talks with B.C. Housing, but not with the camp,” said Drury. “I wish that they were.”
Maple Ridge Mayor Nicole Read said she was not aware of a meeting between camp leadership and the province. She said the city is still waiting for responses to questions it asked B.C. Housing approximately a month ago.
Read said the city has its own outreach workers attending the camp and deals directly with the camp’s lawyers at the Pivot Legal Society, but does not deal with Drury.
She said he has dropped in and out of the picture, and thinks he has a personal agenda.
“He doesn’t live here,” said Read. “I honestly think people in Maple Ridge would just like him to go away.”
She did not offer comment on the camp’s proposal, other than to say 200 “is a lot of units.”
The City of Surrey, by comparison, has requested 150 units.
Drury said there are 50 to 70 people at the camp, but the number of homeless people in Maple Ridge is approximately 200.
He declined to list the potential locations for the modular housing units that are on the table.
Read said a location could be the make-or-break issue in getting the support for the project
“Where it’s located – it’s important that the province engage the public.”
The issue of a timeline is simple, according to Drury, who said the homeless population could be moved into a drop camp-style housing in a matter of weeks, and Anita Place shut down.
“They could see a resolution in one month, if they treated it like the emergency that it is,” said Drury.
The conditions at the camp appear to be an emergency for some residents.
A distraught elderly woman with mobility issues, Vicky, broke down in tears talking about the conditions in the camp. She said she has been homeless for a couple of months.
“My tent has two inches of water in it,” she said. “It’s floating right now.”
Tracy Scott, a longtime homeless spokesperson and advocate, said the recent weather is not causing harm.
“It’s not bad. I’m used to it. I’ve been outside lots. I’ve been outside in the snow with my little dog, so I’m used to it,” said Scott. “It’s kind of a pain, because it’s really muddy here. We do have a donation of gravel, but it just hasn’t reached here yet.
“Nightime is very cold, and it got very cold, very quickly. But we know, light a candle for a half an hour in your tent and it’ll warm it up enough that it stays warm for the night, as long as you keep the door shut.”
Drury said he has asked B.C. Housing to access a trailer with showers, bathrooms and running water that was parked at the former RainCity temporary shelter site in Maple Ridge, to move it to the camp.
“People could use it here, on the site, and get warm and cleaned up,” he said.
Drury is optimistic that the change in government will mean housing homeless people.
“It’s possible to interpret the election in Maple Ridge as a referendum on the housing policy of the previous government, so the NDP should be motivated to building housing,” he said. “We’ll see what they actually do. I hope they do more than they promised in the past, so it’s not just the Liberal policy with a new face stamped on it, but that we actually get housing that is a redistribution of wealth to people who need it the most.”
He said the camp residents remain steadfast, and don’t want to go into another shelter where they are “warehoused.”