The Alliance Against Displacement and members of the community called on Fraser Health to open an overdose prevention site in Maple Ridge on Wednesday.
People showed up at the modular housing site on Royal Crescent, and held media conference to make their demands, followed by the setting up of a overdose prevention site tent.
They want Fraser Health to open such a site immediately to replace Anita Place Tent City, which they said operated as an overdose prevention site because people were always around to watch each other as drugs were consumed.
In a release Wednesday, the Alliance said that a recent fatal overdose was the result of tent city being closed.
Tent city, on 223rd Street, was evacuated March 1 because of fire safety concerns. Only verified residents were allowed back as per a Supreme Court order obtained by the city.
The overdose prevention site tent was later taken down, but the Alliance wants the province to select a permanent site by June 10.
Ridge Meadows RCMP said the incident ended peacefully and that no arrests were made, although numerous officers attended. Some remained on site until 6:30 p.m.
Sgt. Brenda Gresiuk said it’s up the various sides to work out their issues and police are just there to keep the peace.
“We live in a democratic society where you’re allowed to have protests. It’s our job to maintain that peace and to work towards a peaceful conclusion and resolution.”
Tasleem Juma of Fraser Health said the agency supports harm-reduction practices, such as overdose prevention services, Take Home Naloxone and needle distribution, as they improve the health and wellness of individuals.
She added that residents of the Royal Crescent temporary modular housing project and those at the Alouette Heights supportive housing complex can access overdose prevention services at both sites.
Others who use drugs can access overdose prevention services, including witnessed consumption, through outreach services provided by Rain City.
The Salvation Army’s Ridge Meadows Ministries shelter also provides overdose prevention services.
“We also continue to work with the City of Maple Ridge to connect people dispersed from Anita Place to our outreach services,” Juma said.
Laura Mathews, with BC Housing, said the agency recognizes the importance of overdose prevention sites for people with addictions, noting there is a safe consumption space for use by residents within the temporary modular homes on Royal Crescent. “These spaces are located inside the building, are monitored and only available to tenants, not the broader public,” Matthews said.
She added that BC Housing tries to reduce the impact on the neighbourhoods where it operates its supportive housing complexes. “Which is why we can’t allow this site to operate here,” Mathews said.
She added that the province has directed health authorities to open overdose prevention sites where there is a need, in consultation with local governments, health professionals, advocates and users.