The centre piece of Anita Place Tent City that took Dwayne Martin a year to build, came tumbling down Thursday as the City of Maple Ridge continued its efforts at the two-year-old homeless camp in the downtown.
Temporary structures and associated debris are removed as and when verified occupants of tent city are provided housing, as per earlier Supreme Court rulings, the city said in a release.
“What you are seeing here is the city enforcing the terms of the order issued by Justice Grauer,” said Mayor Michael Morden who was on scene at the demolition.
“The city remains committed to following through with everything the court mandates. And it’s our expectation here that this camp will be closed and we’ll be looking forward to having a park,” Morden said.
The city’s news release said that Martin agreed to leave the camp through a consent order from the court.
“As part of that agreement, Mr. Martin has been provided with housing services and BC Housing has moved his personal possessions to his new residence,” the release said.
It said that according to the court order, shacks and cabins of residents are removed as residents are found housing outside the camp.
Only about a half dozen people remain at the camp, compared to earlier this year when there were more than 50 residents.
Tent city was evacuated March 1 under order of the provincial fire commissioner, after which fewer people returned to the camp.
Martin, who was watching the demolition said he felt numb. He’s moving to housing in Vancouver.
“This has happened several times where my stuff has been taken and destroyed and you get used to it sadly enough,” said Martin.
“This is not going to break me. If anything, I feel sadly about it and it’s a bit more of a pain …”
Martin just got a place in Vancouver two days ago.
“I’m looking forward to a bit of rest here. I’m going to come back and help others,” he added.
“I’m more inspired now than ever,” he said.
Martin said on Wednesday that he wanted the cabin to remain so someone else could use it.
“I call it a rustic rancher. And it’s built very well, I tell you.”
But Coun. Ahmed Yousef said it was a safety hazard and no one else should occupy the building.
Maple Ridge resident Terry Asunma said he was happy the shack was coming down, saying that it should have happened a long time ago, saying it was built without a permit and asking what would have happened had it fallen down.
He also criticized Pivot Legal Society which represented residents, saying that if Pivot spent as much time on advocating for treatment as it did advocating for drug abuse,”we’d be better off,” said Asunma.
Anna Cooper, with Pivot Legal Society, however criticized the city. “City officials have all kinds of justifications to undermine: fire safety, building codes, zoning.
“But where are they with the options? In the absence of alternatives this is just abuse,” Cooper said via Twitter.
“It’s breaking my heart to watch this. It’s symbolic of this city’s entire approach to its homeless community,” Cooper said.
There’s no clear timeline for when the camp will completely close, said Carl McBeath with the city.
“We anticipate the St. Anne camp closing when the modular housing (on Burnett Street) opens and all of the camp occupants that applied, can move in, if they have not found other housing in the meantime.”
The modular housing on Burnett Street isn’t scheduled to open until October. Morden said in the release that council’s priority is to do its part to deliver diverse housing for seniors, low-income earners and single parents and is committed to options for drug treatment and long-term recovery.