City of Maple Ridge and homeless camp residents reach agreement to keep camp open

City of Maple Ridge and homeless camp residents reach agreement to keep camp open

The City of Maple Ridge has reached an agreement with residents of the Anita Place homeless camp to keep the tent city in place, under certain fire safety conditions.

The two parties had been in court arguing over an injunction order the city sought to have the camp cleared but decided to pursue a compromise instead.

On Monday, a B.C. Supreme Court judge signed a consent order between the two to address life safety issues at the site.

"This will provide the province time to develop a plan to offer housing solutions for the occupants," the city said in a statement.

Under the order, campers will be restricted from having open flames or camp fires, more than one communal kitchen, certain combustible materials and must dispose of their garbage daily.

In addition, B.C. Housing says it will provide the campers with fire-resistant tents and tarps, cold weather sleeping bags, clothing and in-tent heaters.

The provincial housing authority says it will also install a potable water supply, a warming centre and a modular washroom unit with showers, as soon as gets the approval from the city or its fire department.

"It's just a more pragmatic approach to fire safety where the parties are working together to actually provide what's needed to bring things up to the regulations that are being asked of people," said Pivot Legal Society lawyer Anna Cooper.

"It's quite a victory. We enjoy it. We fought for it and we won. Mind you, it's small. It's a step in the right direction, but it's nowhere near what we need and what we want," said camp resident David Cudmore.

Campers have been occupying the once vacant lot near St. Anne Avenue and 223 Street since May, following the closure of the nearby Rain City shelter.

This is the second time the city has adjourned the injunction process, having put the request on hold in June to give B.C. Housing and health-care resources time to secure a voluntary decampment.

But without any progress, city council voted unanimously in October to proceed with an injunction.

Maple Ridge Mayor Nicole Read cited safety issues for residents and first responders and the deterioration of the neighbourhood.

B.C Housing says beyond the immediate needs met by this agreement, securing a site for modular housing featuring 40 to 50 units is a priority.

It says as soon as a site for the homes is selected, it will take two months to complete the project.