Jack Emberly.

Along the Fraser: Voting where a resident returns

Why I accepted the role of community relations worker for the homeless.

Hell is a place where no one loves you – unknown.

Im looking into a green belt between a Maple Ridge car lot and a nursery. It’s strewn with plastic bags, an armchair. Litter fills a ditch on the roadside.

The bush is one of many where homeless people camp. They’re under bridges, wharfs, and the overhead ramp to the Golden Ears Bridge. “They’re everywhere,” a man at Cliff Avenue told me.

Far from the town core, “some snare small animals for food.”

A 2014 survey noted 84 in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows.

The homeless say it’s higher and growing. They know the invisible ones. I’m trying to meet some before Oct. 19th.

Suddenly, a cyclist speeds toward the greenbelt path.

Hello,” I shout.

He brakes, backs up.

“Thanks for stopping,” I say. “Can I talk to you?”

His name’s Jason.

“Sure,” he says.

“Are you going to vote?” I ask.

“Have the identification?”

“No ID,” he says.

I tell him there’s a Letter of Confirmation of Residence that makes voting easier this time.

An administrator – from a hostel, a residence like the Caring Place, a soup kitchen like the one at Golden Ears United Church, a social service worker, outreach staff – can sign it. The only other thing he needs is something with his name on it – a government statement, prescription bottle, even a hospital wrist band.

“I like the dinner at the church,” says Jason. “It’s like a family. They ladies who serve food ask you how you’re doing. Thinking about it makes me feel like crying.”

The reverend signed several letters last Saturday, I tell him.

Another man carrying bags for recycling joins us.

“It’s my friend,” Jason says. “Andrew, we can vote.”

“Don’t have ID.”

“Doesn’t matter. Let’s do it, man. Let’s vote.”

Earlier, I’d walked along Katzie Slough under the ramp to Golden Ears Bridge. Last month volunteers took sacks of refuse from one section of the bush. Today, a man on a bike stopped to talk. He’s from Pitt Meadows.

“I know of seven homeless there.”

Later, I asked Jason about the number.

“On the low side,” he said. “I’d say 15.”

Finding the homeless in remote bushes has been hard. On 232nd Street, a heavily bushed area, local residents told me of campers. With more time, and someone they trust to introduce me, I would talk to them. I have neither.

Over three weeks, I’ve met many homeless at Cliff Avenue, thanks to caregivers like Brian Smeding, who introduced me at 10 p.m. one Sunday while he distributed sandwiches, and staff at the Caring Place and the church who introduced me at the door at dinner time and encouraged folks to sign letters.

On Tuesday, I attended an art show at the ACT – paintings, poetry created by the homeless. A young woman proudly displayed her work. Recently, she’d found shelter.

During Homeless Action Week, Oct. 11-17, local service providers ran a spa and health and wellness fair at the Caring Place.  On Friday, food trucks in Memorial Peace Park will serve them. I’ll be there, remembering Chris Iverson, who died in August.

In 2011, he walked into the Elections Canada Office quoting section 52 (1) of the Local Government Act (1996), which reads, “a person is a resident of an area where a person lives and intends to return.”

“People don’t know this,” Chris told me then. “That’s why they don’t vote.”

His fight for the voiceless in society is a reason I accepted the role of community relations worker for the homeless.

That, and because there was no one else for the job.

 

Just Posted

Police aim to prevent retaliation after Hells Angel found dead in Maple Ridge

IHIT confirms Chad Wilson, 43, was the victim of a ‘targeted’ homicide

Ridge Meadows Hospital parking is still pay, but streets free

Surrey has removed meters on streets, asking Fraser Health for free parking at the hospital

UPDATE: IHIT confirms identity of Hells Angels homicide victim

Chad John Wilson was one of four men arrested in Spain in 2013 on allegations of smuggling cocaine.

Letter: ‘Wait times solution not what you think’

Canada’s health care policies haven’t changed since 1984.

OUTLOOK: Downtown Maple Ridge towers on tap

Changing Maple Ridge’s skyline.

VIDEO: B.C. legislature clerk, sergeant at arms suspended for criminal investigation

Clerk of the House Craig James, Sergeant-at-arms Gary Lenz on administrative leave

Art Studio Tour call for artists

Deadline for applications is Dec. 1

731,000 Canadians going into debt to buy prescription drugs: UBC

Millennials and those without private coverage were more likely to borrow money

Pot users, investors need to be vigilant at Canada-U.S. border

U.S. authorities say anyone who admits to having used pot before it became legal could be barred

Shirtless stranger loomed over couch and started stabbing, bloody B.C. murder trial hears

Colin John pleads not guilty as trial opens in 2016 Chemainus murder case

Late 2019 too long to wait for ridesharing: B.C. Conservatives

“While the rest of the world is embracing this transportation revolution, B.C. is only now staggering slowly toward legislation on a business model that’s been mainstreamed for over a decade in other jurisdictions.”

ICBC warns shoppers of the high-accident season at mall parking lots

Over 150,000 accidents happened during the holiday season last year

No deal in sight: Canada Post warns of delivery delays into January

Union holds fifth week of rotating strikes as both sides remain apart on contract negotiations

COLUMN: Higher interest rates will slow B.C. economy after ‘unusually robust’ show

Jock Finlayson is executive vice president and chief policy officer of the Business Council of BC

Most Read