The temporary shelter for the homeless opened its doors Thursday, and with that began the clean up of the Cliff Avenue camp.
Police, bylaws and cleanup crews were already on site Wednesday, trying to disentangle tarps and poles, tents, furniture and bicycle wheels, and hundreds of plastic bags.
“We have every hope that they’ll move to the shelter, that’s what it’s there for,” said Ridge Meadows RCMP Sgt. Casey Baker.
The RCMP have a good working relationship with the camp residents and the goal will be to help them move over to the shelter on Lougheed Highway, kitty corner from the camp, with as much dignity as possible, Baker said.
The process will be a gradual one that will take days.
The area occupied by one tent that had already been removed had enough materials to fill at least a pickup truck.
City officials say that most campers want to move to the shelter, but early in the morning someone posted on Facebook a picture of a sign saying residents wouldn’t leave without an injunction.
That would require the city to go to Supreme Court to get a court order allowing police to remove people from the area.
But that won’t happen unless campers refuse to leave.
At the city shelter, in the former Sleep Shop next to the KFC, RainCity Housing staff were preparing for the influx and expected the 40 beds to be full by the end of the day Thursday.
“We’ll be working really closely with outreach teams,” said assistant manager Alisha Bold-de-Haughton.
When people arrive, they’ll be interviewed and asked for their recent housing history. Nurses will be on site twice a week and there will be mental health services.
Bold-de-Haughton said she and manager Darlene Boulette have done this a long time and it’s their area of speciality.
However, there is minimal storage on site for residents’ property. The City of Maple Ridge will provide some off-site storage space for possessions.
Outside the shelter, in a fenced-off, screened area, there’s an outdoor smoking area.
One resident wondered if the area was the minimum 7.5 metres away from the nearest doorway or window, as required by the city’s new smoking bylaw.
But that was checked when the shelter was being prepared.
“I believe that it is within the bylaw restrictions,” said Bold-de-Haughton.
City bylaws were in the process of rechecking Thursday to see if it complies.
The shelter will be open 24/7, allowing residents to stay inside and not kicking them on to the streets every day.
It will close in April, after the six-month period. The city has yet to determine what happens after that.
Coun. Craig Speirs said clearing Cliff Avenue will give relief to the homeowners there who’ve put up with the camp since May.
“Everybody is an individual. Everybody has rights.”
He added the death of camp resident Anita Hauck last Sunday after being stuck in a clothing bin has sent a ripple through the entire community.
“That’s been terrible.”