People are making their way back to Anita Place Tent City after Friday’s flash flood tore through the camp, ripping down tarps and inundating tents.
But they shouldn’t have to return to tent city, says Maple Ridge Mayor Nicole Read.
“Those people shouldn’t be back in the camp,” Read said on Monday.
“The camp needs to go, that’s the end of the story at this point.”
Read said conditions now are even worse than before the storm.
“It really highlighted the challenges we’re dealing with in this camp. The camp was pretty uninhabitable. Is it really inhabitable now? It’s soaking wet. They were completely under water,” Read said.
“It remains this huge hazard for people to be in there. It’s really disappointing that we can have a situation like that, and then everybody goes right back into the camp.”
It’s unacceptable that people have to be living rough in there for another winter, she added.
Anita Place Tent City opened in the spring of 2017.
After the storm, 44 residents were bused up to the Greg Moore Youth Centre and stayed there Friday and Saturday nights. A local church also opened its doors on Sunday for some tent city residents.
About 20 people remained in the camp after the storm, fire chief Howard Exner said earlier.
Read expected most residents who were in the tent city before the storm will return. She hasn’t heard of B.C. Housing providing any alternative emergency housing location.
Safety issues at the camp are taxing Maple Ridge’s fire and rescue service, Read added.
The mayor, though, wouldn’t say if the city was planning to seek an injunction to clear the camp because of safety issues.
There needs to be more housing in addition to the 55 modular homes that open next month on Royal Crescent, she added.
The province knows that more than 55 people are homeless in Maple Ridge.
“People living rough, outdoors, for another winter, is just not acceptable.”
She defended city council’s rejection in May of an 85-unit supportive housing shelter on Burnett Street because the city wanted more health resources for that facility.
“From a city council perspective, we have an entire city to consider.”
The pressure for cities to be the approving parties for such shelters puts them in a difficult situation, Read said. It’s the city’s responsibility to weigh the balance for the entire city.
And B.C. Housing still has a responsibility to provide emergency housing for people in tent city, she added.
“This is not the jurisdiction of the local government. This is a massive systemic failure in so many levels that fall under provincial domain,” Read said.
B.C. Housing, however, has said it’s now up to the city to find a new location for a supportive housing complex.
Ivan Drury, with the Alliance Against Displacement, said Monday that most people have returned to tent city and added that the provincial government has promised to replace sleeping bags and blankets that have been ruined by the water.
But most of that hasn’t shown up yet.
And what has been replaced is of cheaper quality goods that are not going to last, he added.
The flooding has created a disaster at the camp, Drury said.
The camp’s residents say their tents were levelled and poles and canopies snapped by hail, while more than a metre of water crashed through camp, soaking and washing away their belongings.
In a news release Monday, Drury asked if the B.C. government responds differently to victims of a natural disaster if they are already homeless.
“And why does it take a flood for the B.C. government only recognize homelessness as a disaster?”
B.C. Housing said it was at the camp Monday speaking with residents and assessing site conditions, as well as potential health and safety issues.
It’s not known yet how many people are still camping at the site, B.C. Housing said in an e-mail.
B.C. Housing also asked that emergency social services be activated on Friday.
In addition to the Greg Moore Youth Centre, the Maple Ridge Alliance Church, local shelters and a motel were used to house tent city residents.
“B.C. Housing is providing new tents, sleeping bags, clothing and additional items as required, ensuring those that remain at the camp are sleeping in dry and functional gear,” B.C. Housing said Monday.