Organizers of the Anita Place Tent City in downtown Maple Ridge have won a two-week delay from the city’s attempt to clear the camp by way of court order.
The camp opened in May on St. Anne Avenue on land the city wants to build a local park on.
“The current legal action is being taken primarily as a result of the city’s health and safety concerns for both the surrounding residential neighbourhood and the St. Anne property itself and, furthermore, concerns relating to physical harm to the property and delays to the city’s park development plans,” the city said last week, explaining its process.
Ivan Drury, one of the organizers of the camp, said the delay was requested to allow Pivot Legal to prepare arguements against the injunction.
The basic arguement is that homeless people are part of the general public and, as such, have the same rights. He added that the Maple Ridge case is similar to one in Vancouver, where last month that city was refused an injunction to clear municipal property.
Tent cities provide more safety than camping alone and take people out of isolation, Drury added.
Tana Copperthwaite has been in the tent camp since it opened in early May and previously spent a year in the RainCity Housing temporary shelter in Maple Ridge.
That closed last week after operating for two years.
Copperthwaite said the shelter was okay, but crowded and there was no privacy as men and women shared bathrooms.
“At least here,” at the tent city, “I have my own space.”
About 28 people were at the RainCity shelter when it closed.
Those remaining residents went to either the Salvation Army Ridge Meadows Ministries, funded to provide 30 beds until September, or they were put up in hotels or found permanent housing, with the help of Fraser Health’s intensive case management team, said Dominic Flanagan with B.C. Housing.
A handful of people also went to the tent city. Exact numbers about who went where, weren’t provided.
“Things are going well. We’ve had a few people come over from the other temporary shelter,” said Darrell Pilgrim, with the Salvation Army.
Some of those are sleeping in cots in the cafeteria, while others have also moved into the Salvation Army’s 30-bed emergency shelter.
However, he couldn’t give exact numbers.
“We’ve been working really hard with the ICM team. We’ve found a lot of success with them.”
Drury said the “optimal” situation would be for the government to build temporary housing, followed by a permanent, supportive housing complex.
“That’s the solution we’re looking for, not just warehousing.”
That had been planned last year, but outgoing Liberal MLAs opposed two possible locations, then created a citizen’s committee to determine a location.
That location hasn’t yet been released.
Flanagan said B.C. Housing still has $15 million available for a purpose-built housing complex in Maple Ridge.