You might not describe them as the best of neighbours.
For Port Haney resident Tyler Ducharme, the Community Education on Environment and Development Centre on 223rd Street is “cupcakes and sprinkles … unless you’re living beside the place.
“It was an absolute hell this summer, just non-stop crazy.”
Ducharme is fed up after living just to the west of the centre for the past nine years.
He says the district-owned lot attracts the homeless or drug addicted who find the fenced grounds a cosy place to set up camp in the evening after the community and environmental programs in the old school house wrap up for the night.
“We get the full brunt when it turns into a camp,” Ducharme says.
People are sleeping for “weeks on end” at the centre, either in the front or behind.
“It was an absolute gong show.”
He aired his complaints at council on Tuesday and says the CEED Centre causes more problems than the nearby Maple Ridge Treatment Centre or the One-Way Club for alcoholics.
“We have been dealing with people living at the CEED Centre for years.”
Ducharme said in addition to people pitching their sleeping bags or tents and camping out, there’s violence and “at times, rabid drug use.”
Recently, when he was leaving for work, he saw one guy with a tent in the front, another tent in the back of the lot and two others fighting under the pagoda. He didn’t want to leave his wife alone for the day.
“It’s been 30 days since I was threatened with violence by somebody staying at the CEED Centre.”
Ducharme said he no longer talks with the CEED Centre society, adding he wants to focus on management of the property, not drug addiction or social issues, and said for years the CEED Centre wouldn’t lock gates for the evening. It’s up to the district to better manage the property, he added.
Ducharme, a former candidate for council, said he has complained and the parks department has shown up, after which the activity would quiet down. But then the ruckus would resume.
The centre’s installation of locks on the gate in July helped, he said, adding he’s only had to call the police twice in the last month.
But CEED Centre executive-director Christian Cowley said Ducharme has never asked to speak to the society.
“It’s been eight years.
“He’s had issues with us right from Day 1.
“He’s not interested in solutions, he wants things his own way.”
Cowley said when he first started with the centre eight years ago, he held a meeting with Ducharme, the Salvation Army and police to address homelessness around the centre.
“We share the same problems he has, so we’re interested in proper discussion with him.”
The society has moved a shed to improve visibility and removed fence panels so the CEED Centre garden is visible.
And with activities at the centre going on in the evening, there’s someone around later into the night than at other properties, he adds.
Homeless people also go on to Ducharme’s property, while the whole area deals with the same issues, Cowley said.
“He’s shown no courtesy as a neighbour. “
The issues that Ducharme’s talking about are beyond the CEED Centre’s control, Cowley added. “He could have good relations with the CEED Centre if he chose. He could even be a member.”
Cowley, another former council candidate, also pointed out the centre has blocked public access to the compost demonstration garden and lighting has been improved.
One possible action would be to fence off the forested area south of the centre. That would eliminate a gathering place for the homeless, he explained.
“My solution was to turn it into a community gardens so there’s no place to sleep.”
But Cowley points out that homeless people are constantly being told to move along.
“There’s no place they’re allowed to be. What we’re seeing are the ills of that,” he said.
“If you go to any business, you’ll find that somebody has been sleeping in their doorstep.”
He added since the clean up of the bush camps near Cliff Avenue and the Caring Place, more homeless have shown up near the centre. Cowley said he’s also given RCMP permission to enter the property any time.
Ducharme presented council with several questions at its Tuesday meeting, asking about council policy towards people squatting on district lots. He also said the CEED Centre seems to allow squatting and wanted to know if the district approved and whose responsibility it was to kick people off the property.
He also asked about toilet facilities for when people had extended stays at the centre.
Mayor Ernie Daykin said staff will respond to Ducharme’s questions.