Safety continues to be an issue at Maple Ridge tent camp. (THE NEWS/files)

Tent city advocates say government too tough

Four residents from Maple Ridge camp at Victoria conference

The Alliance Against Displacement is speaking up about what it claims are government’s efforts to target organized homeless people, says Listen Chen.

An Alliance spokesperson, Chen said four people from Maple Ridge’s Anita Place Tent City joined others from two more such camps at the Victoria courthouse on Monday.

The City of Saanich and the province are seeking an injunction to allow the clearing of Camp Namegans tent city just outside Victoria.

“As tent cities are cropping up … I think what it is a response to the government’s coordinated efforts to target organized homeless people wherever they’re appearing. And that’s what we’re responding to by, for example, helping to build bridges across different regions that are experiencing the same political battles,” Chen said.

Chen added that social housing is needed “for everybody who’s homeless in Maple Ridge,” in order for the camp to disperse.

That would require about 200 units, she said.

Currently, 94 low-income units are being built by Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows Community Services, with $11 million in funding from B.C. Housing. Another 55 temporary, modular home units are opening this fall on Royal Crescent, primarily to provide homes for people in Anita Place.

Currently, the province is emphasizing only supportive housing, following a “one-size-fits-all” model, Chen added.

Ivan Drury, also with the Alliance, objects to what he says are regular, night-time RCMP patrols through Anita Place Tent City.

“They come in and walk through and walk around and shine lights on people and they leave,” Drury said.

“There’s no reason for it. They’re just kind of doing a low-key harassment.”

He said that police don’t patrol through condo communities, shining their lights through home windows.

“They aren’t treating people in the camp as part of the public that they’re protecting.”

Drury followed a Ridge Meadows RCMP walk-through of Anita Place Tent City on Sunday at 11:30 p.m. and Tweeted out a video of the patrol.

Drury ask officers why they are patrolling.

“What gives you the power to do a patrol?

“Who tells you can do a patrol in the middle of the night here?”

The officer responds that he can patrol anywhere.

Instead, Drury wants police to attend the camp only when they’re called.

Three days are scheduled in B.C. Supreme Court in Victoria to hear arguments from municipal, as well as provincial authorities on removing the camp there.

The question of fire safety looms large in the hearing as both the District of Saanich and the provincial government have argued, among other points, that the camp represents a fire risk, endangering both its resident, as well as those in the surrounding residential neighbourhood.

A recent attempt at a cooperative cleanup of the Anita Place Tent City in Maple Ridge, to improve safety conditions, failed because residents and the fire department couldn’t agree on details and city workers were not allowed to enter the camp.

But another meeting has been held since and progress is being made, Chen added.

According to its Twitter account, the Alliance Against Displacement “is an anti-capitalist/anti-colonial organization that supports community struggles for survival and power.”

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