Mike Homen’s neighbourhood is under siege and he wants the District of Maple Ridge and the RCMP to do something about it.
Homen lives on Cliff Avenue, near the corner of Lougheed Highway and the Haney Bypass in downtown Maple Ridge. There, in a vacant lot and on a run-down property at the end of the block, a homeless encampment has taken root, and is wreaking havoc on his neighbourhood.
Homen says he frequently sees open drug use, and has lost count of all the things he’s had stolen. “Bicycles, minibikes, copper welding cables, you name it, they’ll take it,” he said. “But what am I supposed to do, turn my home into Fort Knox?”
Homen owns two properties on Cliff Ave, one he has lived in for the last six years with his three daughters, and one he rents.
Because of the crime in the area, Homen says he can’t keep tenants in his rental unit for more than a few months at a time.
“There’s constant drug traffic up and down the alley,” he said. “They’re like zombies. It scares the tenants off.”
Homen blames the nearby Salvation Army’s Caring Place Ministries, a homeless shelter and soup kitchen, for being a magnet for the unsavoury element in the area.
“The bottom line is that the Salvation Army never should have moved into that corner,” said Homen. “This is a residential neighbourhood.”
Rebecca Pretty is the pastor at the Caring Place, and says the homeless shelter is doing its best to be a good neighbour.
Anyone who stays at the 55-bed shelter must sign a “good neighbour agreement,” which states they won’t associate with those camped out behind the shelter. Volunteers from the shelter also take part in a weekly community clean-up.
“When clients stay here, we hold them accountable,” she said.
Pretty said many of those camped out behind the shelter have been kicked out of the shelter, for offences like threatening the staff or guests, or doing drugs on the premises.
“We do our best to control what happens on our property,” she said. “But we can’t control what happens off it.”
Liz Holitzki, Maple Ridge’s bylaw director, said the District of Maple Ridge has been working with Ridge Meadows RCMP to find a solution, but it’s not as easy as clearing out the camp.
“We’ve done that, and they just right come back,” she said.
Holitzki said the District of Maple Ridge is looking at installing lights and barricades in the area to make it more uncomfortable for the homeless that gather in the area, as well as having a run-down house on the end of Cliff Avenue where the homeless are congregating demolished.
However, even if these measures are successful, the homeless will just set up shop elsewhere, Holitzki said.
“Unfortunately, that wooded area can’t be cleared because it’s a conservation area,” she said.