British Columbia

Evacuation order lifted at Maple Ridge homeless camp

An evacuation order at the Anita Place homeless camp in Maple Ridge has been rescinded. The city has implemented a site perimeter and 24-hour security. Advocates are critical of the registration process that allows only verified residents to return.

Only registered residents allowed to return to Anita Place as city erects security perimeter

The Anita Place tent city was established in May 2017 and has fought off two court injunctions, leading to an agreement with the city. (Peter Kim)

An evacuation order at the controversial Anita Place homeless camp in Maple Ridge has been lifted. 

Occupants of the tent city were ordered out March 2, so emergency officials could remove safety hazards following a series of fires at the tent city. 

Many of the dozens of residents were moved to a temporary shelter on Lougheed Highway.

In a news release Monday afternoon, the City of Maple Ridge said 35 propane tanks and 800 cubic metres of fire-related debris have since been removed. 

It's also developed a safety plan, including a site perimeter and 24-hour security. New people who arrive will be prohibited from moving in.

Emergency officials carried out an evacuation order at the Anita Place homeless camp March 2, following a series of fires at the site. (Megan Batchelor / CBC)

"The city has erected a perimeter all around the camp with only one access point and they have bylaw security guards and RCMP staffing the gate at the checkpoint," said Ivan Drury, advocate with the group, Alliance Against Displacement. 

"They're only allowing access to people who they say were verified as official occupants of the camp, back during registration over two days in late February."

The city confirms only verified camp residents, their legal counsel and government outreach workers will now be allowed to access the site.

Verification process criticized

Lawyers representing the homeless campers are also questioning the registration process.

"That process was extremely barrier-filled and had several problems with it," said Caitlin Shane with Pivot Legal Society. "There were a number of people who didn't get identified despite wanting to get identified."

The city said the verification measure will ensure registered occupants have applied for housing services. 

But Shane argued the city didn't give everyone the proper opportunity to identify themselves.

"The camp was entirely shut down for a large period of the second day [of February] so that no one was allowed on site during which time the city was supposed to be identifying people but was not."

Sandi Orr is one of dozens of homeless people who've been living at Anita Place for more than a year. (Rohit Joseph/CBC)

The city said the size of the encampment will continue to shrink as verified occupants are connected with support services.

In the meantime, no new construction materials or solid structures will be allowed on the site.  All propane, gasoline, aerosol paint cans and other ignition sources are also banned.

B.C. Housing is in the process of restoring power to the washroom and shower facility and is installing a heating system for the warming tent.