Rally in Maple Ridge for community safety

The event will include a walk from the park, along Lougheed Highway to 222nd Street, the area of the Cliff Avenue homeless camp.

A doctors whose office is next to the homeless camp on Cliff Avenue claims it continues to grow.

A doctors whose office is next to the homeless camp on Cliff Avenue claims it continues to grow.

People worried about homelessness and crime plan on showing that concern Saturday, when they meet in Memorial Peace Park at 10 a.m.

“This is a peaceful rally to show support for our community,”  Jenny Dumont, one of the organizers of Maple Ridge Community Rally For Safety, said on Facebook.

They want to raise awareness regarding issues such as needles in our parks and more crime in recent months.

The event will include a walk from the park, along Lougheed Highway to 222nd Street, the area of the Cliff Avenue homeless camp.

The walk will be peaceful and organizers said they’re not vigilantes, but instead are observers and victims.

Melissa Crich, who lives near 207th Street, said the rally is to raise awareness that Maple Ridge needs help.

“We need to draw attention to this and get help somewhere because the mayor’s plan is not working.

“I personally feel that the mayor’s inexperience has put us in a very bad position.”

Crich said the relaxation of the enforcement of bylaws has helped create the Cliff Avenue homeless camp, located behind the Salvation Army on Lougheed Highway.

“We’re not anti-homeless. We still believe they should be given something.”

Residents are against drug use and prostitution and needles on the street.

“I’m kind of shocked, and appalled and scared for my town. It’s getting out of hand,” said Crich.

“Whoever decided to relax the bylaws, they have created a war zone in this town. We need a better solution.”

People are also concerned about the location of the future temporary homeless shelter, seen as a necessary first step before the homeless camp can be dispersed.

But Crich says no one from the city will say anything.

“We’ve been asking, over and over.”

Residents just want basic criteria for the shelter so they know if it will be opening in their neighbourhood. And if it is, they want to be consulted.

However, Coun. Craig Speirs said previously that a homeless shelter won’t be located in a residential area.

Meanwhile, former council candidate Chelsa Meadus wants to organize a community forum where people can discuss the issue of homelessness.

“I believe this will ease tensions. Give people an outlet for contribution and they will help or they will not. Shut the door and leave them in the dark and they will grow frustrated and angry.”

She’d like the City of Maple Ridge to be involved and wants experts from other cities to share how they have dealt with the issue.

“Whether you’re pro-camp, anti-camp, mad, supportive or frustrated, own a business, are unemployed, live in the area or live outside the area, you’re all welcome to help. The more difference and diverse of opinion we have the better the conversation will be,” she said.