UPDATE: Court allows Maple Ridge tent city to stay and address “life safety issues”

UPDATE: Court allows Maple Ridge tent city to stay and address “life safety issues”

B.C. Housing will work with city, camp residents to instal modular housing.

Anita Place Tent City can stay, a judge ruled in Vancouver Supreme Court Monday.

Monday’s ruling was the formalization of a tentative agreement reached by the City of Maple Ridge and Pivot Legal Society, which represents the campers.

“We are adjourning our injunction application to pursue our shared goals for safety,” city lawyers said.

According to Pivot Legal lawyer Anna Cooper, the agreement means the campers, the city and B.C. Housing will all work together to address “life safety issues” at the camp.

“It’s a win in the sense that we’re not going anywhere; we’re staying home. This is what we call home,” said camp resident David Cudmore. “I think the province is moving in the right direction.”

Cooper said that the agreement will provide camp residents with the means to comply with fire safety regulations.

“The order states that as long as campers are putting in their best efforts to obey the fire safety regulations, the city will assist them in making camp fire-safe,” said Cooper.

“In the past, the fire department would go on a walkabout, they would say a tarp isn’t fire safe and that camper would be told you can’t have that tarp. They wouldn’t be told what they could do instead.”

Now, Cooper said, authorities will provide a solution to any fire safety concerns they identify.

“It’s a more pragmatic approach to fire safety,” said Cooper.

The City of Maple Ridge will also work B.C. Housing to improve sanitation at the camp by installing modular washrooms and bringing in running water.

There’s no date for when the sanitation improvements will be brought in, Cooper said.

According to the Alliance Against Displacement, safety measures will be ensured by a third party, while B.C. Housing will provide fire-resistant tents in place of the nylon ones.

“We are hopeful, based on what has been said in court today, that the intention is to allow people to stay in camp and have it be as safe as possible until housing solutions are provided,” Cooper said. “That is something we are looking towards the province and the city to arrange.”

In a signed affidavit, B.C. Housing stated that its first priority “is to get the residents indoors by building temporary modular housing.”

Modular housing has already been rolled out in Vancouver, and Surrey is slated to get more than a hundred units in the coming months.

B.C. Housing stated that the camp will receive 40-50 “work-camp style” units of modular housing to “meet the immediate needs of homeless people in Maple Ridge.”

The agency will fund the capital and operation costs of the modular homes, including a dining hall, a meal service and 24/7 staffing.

The modular housing might not be installed in the camp’s current location; B.C. Housing said it is considering 20 locations within the city and has already ruled out 25 others.

The provision of social housing, which has dogged Maple Ridge council for most of its term, will be part of the ongoing discussions, according to the Alliance.

Ivan Drury, with the Alliance Against Displacement, opposes the position of some on council who want community consultations before any shelter or supportive or modular housing project is started in Maple Ridge.

That’s a stalling tactic, and a waste of time talking to people who don’t want any shelter, he said.

“There’s no reason to do any consultation.”

Only the homeless people who need to be brought indoors need to be consulted, Drury said.

Two hundred units of permanent social housing are needed, he added.

“To waste time, consulting with people who will never be happy with any possible site, because of their ideological lenses, is irresponsible.”

Some on council are opposed to any kind of shelter because of coming election, he added.

Council just needs to decide a location for modular housing and announce that, Drury said.

Eva Bardonnex said if the camp was disbanded, she’d have no where to go.

“I would be in the bush somewhere. It would be unsafe for me.”

She’s been in the camp since it opened in May and before that, was camping beside the Fraser River for eight months after being evicted from her apartment.

During the cold weather, tent city residents bundle up in coats and sleeping bags to get through the cold nights. She said having a good tent makes a difference when trying to stay warm.

Anita Place organizer Tracy Scott said he camp is asking for donations of plastic pallets to keep tents out of the mud.

On May 30, the city said it was seeking an injunction to clear the camp, because of health and safety concerns.

On June 20, however, it asked for an adjournment of that application, so it could consider all the statements from both sides of the issue.

The city said then it was going to focus on lobbying the provincial government, B.C. Housing and Fraser Health for support so that the camp is no longer needed.

It also said it would suspend the injunction as long as the conditions remained safe.

But in October, Mayor Nicole Read said safety conditions had deteriorated, forcing the city back to court.

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