Barbecue at Cliff Avenue camp

Housing alliance puts on event intended as a ‘show of support for homeless’

The city is looking for solutions to homelessness in Maple Ridge.

The city is looking for solutions to homelessness in Maple Ridge.

A weekend community barbecue is planned for the Cliff Avenue camp behind the Salvation Army, despite a disagreement between two residents there Monday during which a woman had part of a finger bitten off.

“We’re going to have it carefully organized,” said Ivan Drury, with the Metro Vancouver-based Social Housing Alliance.

The barbecue, which goes from 1-4 p.m. Saturday, isn’t intended as a protest, but a show of support for homeless people.

“Our object is to try to coordinate between communities facing the housing crisis in different spaces in B.C. because we see people facing the same problems everywhere. And there are no solutions anywhere,” Drury said.

“So that’s why we’re seeing an increasing trend to more tent cities instead of an actual solution to the homeless crisis.”

He downplayed concerns about the barbecue and said much of that is Facebook worry.

He talked with homeowners along Cliff Avenue this week and said many feel for the homeless, but are worried they’re so close to their homes, which he understands.

The barbecue won’t have parking and it won’t draw in new residents to the camp. Those attending will be from other areas also fighting homelessness, said Drury.

“It’s not going to be people looking to move to Maple Ridge.”

Drury objects to creating divisions between homeowners and street people.

“A lot of us are one paycheque away from being there.”

He said unlike other camps, where most of the opposition comes from the city, in Maple Ridge it’s the hostility from the rest of the population.

“The biggest issue people are having here are with everyday residents of Maple Ridge,” he added.

“When people come through and throw bottles at the heads of homeless people or scream at them and … try to yell them down or try to hit them with their cars, in our opinion, these are hate crimes.”

That leads to dehumanization and deaths, he said.

The alliance is an all-volunteer group with no funding or staff.

“We’re a bit surprised that there’s any controversy about it at all,” he said of the BBQ.

Brian Harris, an advocate for the homeless, said the atmosphere is tense at the camp and some are planning on leaving.

He said the barbecue is a chance to smooth things for the homeless, to meet other Maple Ridge residents and for the homeless to say they don’t want to be there.

He said the camp is forming into three groups, those with mental issues, those who are addicted and those simply without a place to live.

Harris said he wasn’t sure if the barbecue was going to ahead. He was going to bring his rock band, but instead will bring his acoustic guitar.

Ridge Meadows RCMP civilian spokesman Dan Herbranson said one female has been arrested and charges of assault causing bodily harm are being recommended regarding the biting incident.

“Some type of disagreement turned into a physical altercation and the one bit the other’s hand,” Herbranson said.

“There’s some severe damage to the victim’s hand.”

As far as he knows, the barbecue is still planned. Police won’t be there unless required.

“We’re aware of it,” he added.

“We do actually have extra officers on hand for Pitt Meadows Day, so should the need arise, we’re properly prepared.”

Maple Ridge spokesman Fred Armstrong said no permits have been sought from the city.

“We’re aware that it’s happening.”