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Housing rally in Maple Ridge

March from Memorial Peace Park to Salvation Army
Advocates for homeless took their message to downtown Maple Ridge Wednesday.

Maple Ridge homeless and their advocates took their message to the streets Wednesday, calling for "Homes not Hate" and for the Quality Inn to be converted to supportive housing.

Chanting "Tax the rich to house the poor" and "Social housing now" the marched from city hall to the Ridge Meadows Ministries of the Salvation Army to the Quality Inn on Lougheed Highway.

B.C. Housing had proposed buying the Quality Inn and converting the 61 units to supportive housing, but backed away in the face of public protest.

The motel was intended to accommodate the remain 30 people at the temporary shelter, at 222nd Street, which was supposed to be closed by now.

"We want our tent city again," said Tracy Scott, who was part of the Cliff Avenue camp that formed last spring.

"Our rights are identical to anybody in the street, but we get ours taken away and get treated sub-human. Why?"

Scott, who's now living in Alouette Heights supportive housing, said a tent city should be an interim place until a new permanent $15-million supportive housing complex is completed by B.C. Housing. A location hasn't been decided.

Many of the marchers were from Vancouver, but Loretta Sundstrom from Maple Ridge was there to show her support. Sundstrom is the mother of Anita Hauck, a resident of the Cliff Avenue camp who died last September after getting trapped in a clothing donation bin at Meadowtown Shopping Centre.

"I'm here in support this cause because Anita's spirit is here," she said. "She would have been here. I'm here to support her. People were not born to be homeless."

Not all homeless people are drug addicts or alcoholics and not all of them are dirty or smelly, she added.

"They are humans and all they want is a chance."

Hauck was a strong advocate for the homeless, speaking during the 2014 civic election and calling for a campsite for the homeless.

"She was so strong. She had so much more strength than I have. She fought for every one of the homeless people. Every one that was down and out."

Sundstrom said the Quality Inn should have been converted to housing.

"Where are we supposed to put them?"

People worry about having homeless people near them because they're afraid of crime.

"We already have crime."

Across the Dewdney Trunk Road, a small group watched the gathering that began at city hall.

They didn't want homeless people living in housing where they can keep using drugs and die from overdoses.

"They need to commit to help and therapy. I'm not going to spend my tax dollars so somebody can sit in the room and get high and overdose," said Brett Watts.

He doesn't think that giving people a place to use drugs helps anyone.

Another in the crowd said there were only two people from the temporary homeless shelter, at 22239 Lougheed Highway, at the rally.

During the stop at the Salvation Army, Samona Marsh, with the Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users, said anyone who wakes up in the morning and needs a cup of coffee is an addict.

"Thanks to the anti-social housing brigade in Maple Ridge, there is no social housing here," Tami Starlight said as the procession arrived at the Quality Inn.

"Taxpayers, if you don't like homeless people living in the streets of your town, go to Rich Coleman right now and beg him to change his mind and buy the Quality Inn," said Vancouver anti-poverty advocate Jean Swanson. "People could move in now. People with nothing could have a roof over their heads and a private washroom."

It's cheaper to house people than keep them in the streets, she added.

"I'm so sorry you have to put up with ignorance and hatred," adding she hopes that people in Maple Ridge know that people in Vancouver support them.

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