NDP MLA for Vancouver-Point Grey David Eby visited the homeless camp on Cliff Avenue last week and demanded the B.C. Liberal government help provide shelter to those living on the Maple Ridge street.
He was flanked by Maple Ridge Mayor Nicole Read, wearing an orangy-red dress, and who, like her Vancouver counterpart, Gregor Robertson, campaigned on a promise to end homelessness.
It’s not a hopeless endeavor, but close.
Eby and Read were joined by a pair of Maple Ridge councillors: Craig Spiers, who ran for the NDP federally; and Kirsten Duncan, who was wearing orange.
The issue of homelessness is clearly a political one.
And that is fine, because a part of politics is about championing issues.
But what the city has done goes beyond that.
It has put a neighbourhood under siege.
The kids of Cliff Avenue held up signs for the politicians to read – they can’t sleep at night because of the noise from the camp; nor can they ride their bikes around in the summer because they don’t feel safe.
There have been fights at the homeless camp, and drug overdoses.
Homeless camps have existed around Maple Ridge, and in the Cliff Avenue area, for more than a decade. But never were they as large or as problematic as the current one.
In fact, some campers left Cliff Avenue because they didn’t feel safe there and moved to other sites in the city, but were dispersed by bylaws and guided back to the street behind the Salvation Army homeless shelter.
Mayor Read and her task force are lobbying for more supportive housing in the city, as well as a national housing strategy, to help get the homeless off the street.
Mayor Read previously questioned the Salvation Army’s effectiveness in its efforts to help them.
She wants the province to step in and has picked a fight with Liberal MLA Doug Bing.
Then she used the camp as a backdrop for a political demonstration.
The camp exists and it is a problem. But it didn’t just happen to grow there, as the mayor likes to insist.
This camp has been allowed to stay, as have those in other cities, including Vancouver.
It is a legal protest.
The mayor may be doing good work with her task force on this issue, but if she wants to deny the political nature of this camp, if she wants to blur the lines between orange and red, why should we trust her?
The fact is the camp has grown since first forming in March, shortly after the homelessness task force formed and came up with a plan.
The main camp has been allowed to stay.
There is no money, yet.
The city doesn’t have the resources to solve this problem on its own.
A court injunction is needed to break up the camp. In order to get an injunction, the city must prove shelter can be provided for those living there.
That takes time.
How much longer must the residents and business owners around Cliff Avenue wait?
The mayor needs to tell them that.
– Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows News