Some say downtown Maple Ridge is getting to be as bad as the Downtown Eastside in terms of open drug use. The problem is causing residents to speak out.
“[There are] hookers out here at five or six o’clock in the morning fighting with each other, people sleeping in the bush trying to set up tents, or just very open drug use,” said Nicci, a resident of Maple Ridge who lives next door to some green space.
She recently recorded some disturbing drug use just outside her property.
“You always have to worry if they’re going to come back in the middle of the night and do something. It’s quite scary.”
The lot next to Nicci has sat empty for a couple of years since the house on it burnt down. It has now become a meeting place for some of the city’s drug users and homeless.
The location is just a few blocks away from a temporary shelter and minutes from where a new $15-million social housing project will be built.
“Kids shouldn’t have to see needles going into people’s arms and theft of possession and be accosted every day,” said one resident.
The City of Maple Ridge is trying to keep the problem in check.
“What Maple Ridge has been working on in terms of services for the last couple of years is really working with B.C. Housing and Fraser Health and a lot of the key service providers to make sure we have adequate services in place so that people have a place to go and be connected to services,” said Kelly Swift, general manager of Community Services and Parks and Recreation in Maple Ridge.
The municipality has also increased police patrols and hired a full-time community liaison. It is also suggesting property owners remove their shrubbery to make green spaces less appealing for drug users and the homeless.
However, residents say that the real answer is better mental health services.
“These people need medical help and mental health services, not more places where they can get a fix,” said John Szogi, another resident.