The street ministry community suppers, during which people come together on Saturday nights to build support and get to know one another, will meet one last time at the CEED Centre in Port Haney this week, then have to find a new home.
The centre, dedicated to community education on environment and development, has been hosting the outreach meals for the past 21 months, but has been asked by the District of Maple Ridge to go elsewhere, said manager Christian Cowley.
The CEED Centre society owns the building, at 223rd Street and 117th Avenue, but leases the land on which it sits from the municipality.
“We weren’t told to leave. It was suggested that we do so,” Cowley added.
The district asked the street ministry organizers to find a new place after at least two people complained about crime or litter, needles or noise from the dinners.
They are run by volunteers, mostly from St. George’s Anglican Church. They make soups, casseroles, and caldrons of hot coffee for anyone in the area who’s hungry.
Robert Mitchell, a one-time church deacon who lived and worked in Port Haney, started the street ministry around 2004, at first walking the streets, handing out sandwiches, then holding larger events, such as barbecues, in front of his business. He died in 2010 from brain cancer.
The meals have since been held at the CEED Centre.
Cowley says that only about a quarter to a third of guests are homeless.
“There were absolutely no problems caused by it. We didn’t have a single incident.”
Litter is picked up after every meal, which can draw up to 100 people, he said.
Mayor Ernie Daykin said the district asked for a new location, pointing out the lease agreement doesn’t allow for such functions and there were liability or insurance concerns.
“That neighbourhood is going through some challenges. We just asked the CEED Centre to look at what’s going on.”
Cowley has his own thoughts about what’s behind the problems in the Port Haney area and blames a little house on the corner of St. Anne Avenue and 223rd Street. Police have raided it three times in less than a year, most recently this month.
The house “is the major source of the problem in the area,” Cowley said.
Maple Ridge Coun. Al Hogarth, a realtor, has been managing the property for the past year and a half and said only the back portion of the house has been emptied, while a legal tenant continues to live in the main part.
Cowley added it was “poor property management” that led to problems in the house.
“I’m a property manager and I don’t have those problems.”
Five people were arrested in the most recent raid, and a variety of drugs were seized in a June drug bust.
Cowley said a landlord has the right to evict people if there are more people living in the building than is allowed.
“If that same standard was permitted for other landlords or property managers there would be havoc in this place. We’d have Northumberlands everywhere,” he said in reference to the notorious town home complex that was demolished in 2011.
“Landlords are not helpless,” Cowley said.
According to the Residential Tenancy Branch, landlords can evict tenants who allow too many people living on the property by providing a month’s notice.
If the notice is disputed, the landlord can go to a dispute resolution process and get an order of possession, which orders the tenant to leave.
That can be enforced only with a Writ of Possession from the B.C. Supreme Court. It’s only through a Writ of Possession that a landlord can remove a tenant or change the locks. A fine of up to $5,000 is possible for an unlawful eviction.
If it goes to the dispute resolution process and the landlord has a good case, he or she will win, Cowley added.
Hogarth, though, said often if notices were given, tenants clean up their behaviour so that by the time it gets to the dispute resolution process, he wouldn’t have a case.
“Under the Residential Tenancy Act, people are allowed to have visitors. That’s where I will lose.
“If you lose the dispute, you’re done.”
He added if Cowley has advice, he wants to see it in writing.
“If Mr. Cowley seems to think he’s holier than thou, I’d like to see him walk on water under the Residential Tenancy Office.”
Daykin said one single location isn’t to blame for the social problems in the area and that being a landlord can be a challenge. He manages Maple Towers complex on 222nd Street on a part-time basis and said he got fooled recently by allowing a bad tenant.
So far, Maple Ridge council hasn’t raised the topic of Hogarth’s management of the property.
“The community can do that,” Daykin said.