The City of Maple Ridge launched legal proceedings in British Columbia Supreme Court on Tuesday, seeking injunctions intended to end a homeless camp on municipal property.
The camp is located at St. Anne Avenue and 223rd Street, east of the Haney Bypass. The occupation of the St. Anne property, intended to be a city park, began May 2, according to the city, when a group broke through a security fence with the intention of establishing a protest camp.
Council decided to pursue an injunction during a recent closed meeting. Voting records from that meeting that led to the decision weren’t released.
“What I support is funding a resolution that works for the people most affected,” said Coun. Craig Speirs.
He added, the city should at least ask the court for the injunction, and by doing so get direction on how to proceed. The injunction application will be heard on Monday, June 5 in Vancouver Supreme Court.
Speirs said that it is a protest camp, but there are legitmately homeless people now staying there.
With the tent camp in place for a month now and the closure of the RainCity Housing temporary homeless shelter on Wednesday, Speirs said it’s going to take awhile to find a solution.
He continued to blame former Liberal MLAs Doug Bing and Marc Dalton, defeated in the May 9 B.C. election, for their previous opposition of two possible locations for a temporary or permanent homeless shelter and supportive housing complex.
The MLAs earlier this year announced the closure of the shelter, saying that 30 of 40 people in the shelter would move to the Salvation Army Ridge Meadows Ministries, where they would sleep on mats in the cafeteria.
“The two previous MLAs, you can lay this directly at their feet,” Speirs said.
Now, the process of finding a location for a shelter has to begin all over again, he added.
Coun. Kiersten Duncan pointed out that the city cannot start the process of finding a location for a new shelter until it knows what government is in power in Victoria, either Liberal or NDP-Green.
But she, too, was angry at the departing MLAs, saying that many people wouldn’t feel comfortable in the Salvation Army and wouldn’t get the services there. That means there’s nowhere else for the shelter residents to go but the street.
“The situation that the MLAs left us, is incredibly challenging,” she said.
But council needs to know who’s in government before anything can happen, Duncan added.
According to the release, the city has been trying to get those in the camp to leave voluntarily, as happened with the Cliff Avenue homeless camp in October 2015.
“The current legal action is being taken primarily as a result of the city’s health and safety concerns for both the surrounding residential neighbourhood and the St. Anne property itself and, furthermore, concerns relating to physical harm to the property and delays to the city’s park development plans,” the city said.
“The city is aware, for example, of several rudimentary latrines having been dug into the property, used hypodermic needles being discarded on the property and garbage collecting on the property.
The location of the camp has resulted in lots of complaints to the city, it added.
“Of particular concern are the reports of human waste, garbage and used drug paraphernalia both on the St. Anne property and being found on nearby private properties. Additional reports indicate the size of the camp may actually be growing; further deepening the city’s concern.”
Maple Ridge has also made two nearby city parks available for night camping, as required by recent court decisions, although those weren’t identified in the release.