Maple Ridge tent city starts gofundme for its second winter

Maple Ridge tent city starts gofundme for its second winter

Gofundme page started for heaters, ducting.

Organizers of the Anita Place Tent City are taking to gofundme to raise money for generators, propane heaters and ducting as the camp faces its second winter.

The Alliance Against Displacement campaign is called Winterizing Anita Place Tent City and seeks to raise $4,000 in order to buy: cages to safely house generators and heaters away from flammable materials; conduit or piping in order to bury underground power lines; metal ducting to direct heat into structures, oil heaters, and building materials; as well as blankets and socks.

The camp on 223rd Street in downtown Maple Ridge is heading into its second winter after marking its first anniversary in April.

“The state may refuse to provide shelter, electricity, and heat to Anita Place, but residents refuse to lay down and die beneath a blanket of snow and government negligence,” the gofundme page says.

The page was set up Nov. 8, and as of Wednesday, had raised $125.

B.C. Housing said two weeks ago that outreach workers were trying to secure rental units, with the help of rental supplements, for the remaining 65 tent city residents. People were also being referred to shelters, such as the Salvation Army or the mat program, as part of which people can shelter each night in local churches.

Another 25 people have already left tent city to go to the temporary modular housing on Royal Cresent, when that opened in mid-October.

But Listen Chen, with Alliance Against Displacement, doubts those options will be enough to disband the camp, saying that low-income housing is needed.

“I think it will definitely be there for the winter,” Chen said. “Where are all these rental units that are willing to rent to homeless people?” There just aren’t 40 such units in Maple Ridge where landlords are willing to rent to the homeless, she added.

Some current tent city residents used to live in apartments with rental supplements, she said.

Chen also said tent city council won’t support clearing of the camp, unless there’s enough low-income, or social housing that will provide all the homeless people in Maple Ridge secure places to live, something that a rental supplement cannot.

The entire camp population will review its decampment policy next week.

Chen maintains that the provincial fire commissioner said that the wooden structures built within tent city over the past year are not a problem, while it’s the city that opposes the structures. The structures improve living conditions at the camp and lots of suffering would result if people were forced back into tents, Chen said.

She said that Alliance’s legal advisers, Pivot Legal Society, believe that wooden structures can be seen as safe.

However, the city’s bylaws department has posted notices on the shacks saying they’re not safe for occupancy.

But Chen said it’s absurd that the city is saying you can’t live in a structure, but a tent is totally safe to occupy.

She added that the plan to install underground wiring, ducting for heating in tents, oil heaters, and cages around generators, the camp’s best efforts at improving safety are safer than having candles inside tents.

“We’ve tried asking the fire department and the city for a safe source of electricity, and they just don’t have any answers, so we’ve sketched out a system that we think is safe,” Chen said.

Maple Ridge Fire and Rescue Chief Howard Exner said that last September’s fire safety inspection and clean-up ordered by the Office of the Fire Commissioner in Victoria was silent about the wooden structures. The order was modified from an order that Exner wrote himself as a local assistant to the fire commissioner.

But Exner said if the shacks are used as residences, they have to be built to building code. That’s why the buildings have Do Not Occupy stickers on them.

He said the fire department continues to make regular visits to the camp, but, “It’s pretty much back to where it was.”

The fire cleanup in the camp improved conditions briefly.

“It moved us along, but we never achieved fire-safe conditions down there,” Exner said.

The Alliance Against Displacement helped found Anita Place and “has remained involved on the ground ever since,” the gofundme page said.

“We are the chair of camp council and provide political support and advice to residents.”


Shacks are popping up in tent city. (Contributed)

Shacks are popping up in tent city. (Contributed)