Residents at Anita Place Tent City restated their demands and provided their own homeless count numbers in advance of a delegation of local businesses at Maple Ridge council Wednesday that is seeking to have the camp moved.
Tracey Scott, who started and runs the homeless camp on 223rd Street near St Anne Avenue, said members of Anita Place have conducted their own homeless count, going into bushes and old camps.
“We know where people hide,” she said.
They counted names, not numbers, she added.
“We counted out, minimum, we have 200 homeless people in Maple Ridge alone.”
Of those, about 55 are at the camp. Others are turned away. There are an estimated 35 homeless youth in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows, according to the unofficial count.
A Metro Vancouver count earlier this year pegged the number of homeless people in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows at 124, up from 84 three years ago.
Scott said members of Anita Place are asking for at least 200 modular units to house those they counted. They also want permanent housing for them.
“We all need a lot of affordable housing. If there’s 200 homeless people here, you can imagine how many more there are everywhere else.”
A man calling himself ‘Grave Digger,’ from the Sugar Mountain tent city in Vancouver, said the Maple Ridge camp and others like it need to stand together until their needs are met.
If police descend on Anita Place, he said “there’s 15 to 20 lads [who] are not afraid to go to jail and can be standing here in two hours.”
Maple Ridge business owners, frustrated by interactions with homeless people at the camp, are scheduled to appear as a delegation before council on Tuesday.
Mark Lancaster, owner of North Fraser Automotive Repair, which is near Anita Place Tent City on 223rd St., has started a petition and said the disruption since the homeless camp opened is slowly killing his business.
Ahmed Yousef, who wanted to lead a delegation of business owners to appear before council to discuss their complaints, previously said he was being discouraged from doing so.
He claimed Mayor Nicole Read advised him to forego the delegation, that the camp is a provincial issue, and that bringing it to council would be inflammatory and divisive.
Advocates for homeless people at Anita Place Tent City said last week they are in talks with the provincial government about permanent solutions to the camp.
Ivan Drury, of the Alliance Against Displacement, said he has spoken with B.C. Housing, and given it the Alliance’s proposal – 200 modular units as a temporary solution, to be followed by permanent housing.
He sees the new NDP government’s announcement to fund the delivery and operation of 2,000 modular housing units as part of the solution.
But the city has cut off its talks with B.C. Housing after the Maple Ridge Fire Department couldn’t get residents of Anita Place Tent City to comply with its safety rules.
Scott said a friend of her’s from the camp is in hospital with pneumonia, that those who stay there don’t have money for heaters or fire-proof tarps.
“Let us stay dry,” she said. “How can it be a fire hazzard when it’s p***ing rain.”