Volunteers and advocates for Maple Ridge’s homeless people ate Christmas treats and sang carols with the residents of Anita Place Tent City on Saturday evening.
Chris Bossley, who administers a Facebook Page for the camp, said the supporters decided to do the event after an negative incident involving a police officer and a volunteer.
The volunteer was bringing a nine-year-old child into the camp, and an RCMP officer advised her that it was dangerous, and that there are needles everywhere.
The volunteer responded that her grandson has been in the camp in the past, and would be under her supervision. The officer again advised her she shouldn’t bring children to the camp.
“Connie explained it was good for children to see how other people have to live, and turned to walk into the camp” said Bossley at the event, retelling the incident.
She said the interaction was negative enough to upset Connie and camp residents who overheard it.
Bossley scoffed at the statement that there are needles everywhere at the camp, and clarified children are not allowed to live at the camp, but can visit under the supervision of a guardian.
“We are here tonight, to fight back against the discrimination our un-housed neighbours at Anita Place City… are subjected to on a daily basis, not only by residents, but by the very people who are tasked with serving and protecting them,” Bossley said.
Among those who attended were Corrie Bogaert of Douglas College who brought a truckload of warm clothing from her psychiatric nursing class.
“The other day I was walking in the rain and I got really cold feet, and I thought ‘there are people living here who are always cold.’”
Will Hartman, who lives in the neighbourhood, said he simply came to show his support.
“I want to see a good result, for people who are here,” he said. “I’m hoping we get some decent housing and services for these folks, in this community. I think it’s long past time for that to happen.”
Colene Thompson came with donations from the Community Network.
“We filled Christmas bags with socks, hand warmers, there’s some goodies in there… really festive,” she said. “My whole trunk is full – 60 bags in there.”
She also gets three loaves of bread and three dozen eggs every week, and brings down egg salad sandwiches.
“These are my neighbours,” said John McKenzie. “I have never had any problem with the homeless. People have so much attitude toward them, I tell them come down and talk to them. They’re real people. They might be struggling right now, but they’re decent people, and they’re your neighbours. Don’t ostracize them or marginalize them.”
Homeless residents, including camp spokesperson Tracy Scott, said the residents appreciated the Christmas event and donations, and some joined in the carolling.
BC Housing and the City of Maple Ridge have been in discussion about a place for modular housing for the camp residents.