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Maple Ridge homeless camp site to become public park, moving remaining campers out

In its statement, the city added the remaining campers will be moved into a new 51-unit supportive housing building that recently opened on Burnett Street.
In its statement, the city added the remaining campers will be moved into a new 51-unit supportive housing building that recently opened on Burnett Street. Global News File

The site of a controversial Maple Ridge homeless camp is being turned into a public park, the city announced Friday.

But advocates for the former Anita Place tent city that took up the site for years say the move is displacing the few remaining campers, who aren’t being given adequate housing to move into.

The city says work is set to begin “immediately” to remove any remaining structures and debris from the site at the end of Saint Anne Avenue, where campers began setting up tents in May 2017.

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“It has been a long road and I would like to thank residents for their patience and understanding as our City followed the required legal process to close the camp permanently,” Mayor Mike Morden said in a statement.

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With the structures and remaining campers out of the site, the city says work will then begin on testing the soil in order to ensure it’s ready for development.

The concept for the park, which was originally created in 2017, will be put forward for public consultation once again before a projected opening in late spring 2020.

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In its statement, the city added the remaining campers will be moved into a new 51-unit supportive housing building that recently opened on Burnett Street.

But Alliance Against Displacement organizer Ivan Drury says that’s not exactly true.

“It’s temporary housing, meaning it’s suitable for temporary habitation,” he said. “But the province does not have any plan to replace it with permanent social housing.

“And although the city says they’re looking for a permanent site, they’re blocking any real effort from the province and BC Housing to build it.”

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Drury says the temporary housing built in the city will quickly become a “slum” that will put residents in danger.

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When the Garibaldi Ridge development was opened earlier this week, the city said it was working with the province to secure a permanent site, to which the modular housing will be moved.

After the move, work will then begin on building affordable seniors housing on the Burnett Street site.

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Drury says neighbourhood “vigilante” groups are also targeting homeless people who set up tents or camps in other areas of the neighbourhood after they were ordered to leave Anita Place.

“The closure of Anita Place means people are living in constant, daily displacement and dispersal,” he said. “This is the result of an anti-homeless agenda.”

Global News has reached out to the city and Ridge Meadows RCMP for a response to Drury’s allegations.

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Most of the campers at the site were removed from the site in the spring, after the city won a court injunction against the camp.

The city and nearby residents became concerned about safety at the camp after a series of fires were set, one of them seriously injuring a woman.

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Council then approved a “social housing plan” that included temporary modular housing for some of the campers, which drew criticism from the province.

Housing Minister Selina Robinson then announced the Burnett Street modular housing unit would be built without approval from council, prompting angry protests from the city and residents.

— With files from Simon Little