Mayor Nicole Read speaks to media during a tour of the Cliff Avenue homeless camp last week with NDP MLA David Eby.

Orange is the new red

Cliff Avenue camp is legally a protest and can’t be broken up.

The minute campers declared they were tired of being moved along and set up on Cliff Avenue, the dynamics changed.

No longer were they individuals to be shuffled along to the next hidden spot, out of sight, out of mind.

Because at that stage, in March and April, the camp had evolved into a social protest.

That mean a court injunction is required to disperse the camp.

Legal history is clear, said Mayor Nicole Read, that an injunction is needed to disperse a protest camp.

And for that dispersal to take place, people need to have a place to go, she said Tuesday.

The same procedure had to be followed by Vancouver Police Department last year when the camp at Oppenheimer Park was dispersed.

It’s a point about which there is a lot of confusion.

“So that’s what we’ve been working on.”

Read said the camp wasn’t orchestrated in order to raise political pressure and force a solution.

“We were never doing anything, council, from political expedience,” she added.

“By no means did anyone expect or want there to be a sizable camp on Cliff Avenue.”

People have been camping in the forested sloped area, which is private property, for years.

And when the city put up the chain link fence separating the forested area from the road, that encouraged people to pitch their tents on public property.

The formation of the camp, however, has drawn attention to the issue of homelessness and the lack of resources the city has in dealing with it. The city paid for four outreach workers for a six-month period to try to deal with the camp.

The camp drew provincial attention last week when NDP MLA David Eby toured of the camp. Maple Ridge councillors Craig Speirs, an NDP supporter, and Kiersten Duncan also showed up.

Duncan was wearing an NDP orange vest, while Eby sported an orange-tinged tie.

Read appeared in what seemed an orange dress, which she said is red.

“I wore the same dress to Canada Day,” she said.

Read said she’s not politically aligned with any party and noted the NDP contacted her for a tour of the camp. Eby visited Maple Ridge the week before and decided to return to Maple Ridge and call a news conference.

Read said that Eby was shocked by the proximity of the camp to homes along Cliff Avenue.

“I think that was a real eye opener.”

But there was no intent at showing solidarity with the provincial opposition by colour coordinating.

“I’m not a member of the NDP. I’m not a member of the Liberals,” Read said.

“For me, in terms of political parties, I don’t align that well with any political party.”

But right now, the area is feeling the impact of having no national housing strategy.

“I am very much in favour of supporting social programming.”

Today, Maple Ridge is hosting a meeting for landlords with the executive director from the B.C. Landlords Association speaking how landlords can help difficult to house tenants.

The city’s outreach workers will work with tenants to try to ensure they keep their housing despite the issues they may have.

“We should have been doing this sometime ago,” Read said.

So far, homes have been found four members of the camp, while two more move into homes in August.

City officials are meeting with B.C. Housing, which is offering 50 rental supplements in the area.

Read said when the Rain City shelter opens in Coquitlam later this year it should take the pressure off the homeless situation in Maple Ridge.

Read says the camp on Cliff Avenue has to end.

“It has to.”

 

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