Even if you have no home, you still have to eat

Maple Ridge resident slaves over stove to provide hot food to campers

Teal Quin can’t help herself from helping people.

The Maple Ridge resident who has rented out a room in her mobile home half a dozen times to people struggling, is now cooking up a storm three times a week to help the homeless in the Anita Place Tent Camp on St. Anne Avenue.

“When people are starved or broke or needy, they’re going to do stuff that makes them criminals,” says Quin, an advocate for the poor.

“I do believe that every good relationship with any stranger, starts with food. It starts over sharing, breaking bread.”

She believes that if people are fed well, they feel better and can make progress in their lives. Two years ago, she made 1,200 baked goods for RainCity and Salvation Army shelter residents.

But at the camp, where there are few tables and now several tents, getting something to eat means either hauling in your own groceries or making regular trips for meals at the Salvation Army Ridge Meadows Ministries shelter on 222nd Street.

Getting up to the Salvation Army, which now offers only one meal a day, is easy if you’re young and mobile, but it’s more difficult if you’re older or less able to move around. If it becomes inconvenient to eat, people’s conditions start deteriorating.

“They’re not realizing – hey – I need to get some food into me.”

Quin wants to start putting together snack bags to give campers some of the basics but in the last few weeks, has already begun cooking up hot meals. On Sunday, Wednesday, Friday, she’ll get up early and start working at her stove in her mobile home in Maple Ridge. It’ll take about five hours to get a meal ready. Donors are helping out with some of the supplies.

”It’s a logistical nightmare … started cooking 6 a.m. please if you have a shelf, old cupboards that are usable, I need to get this mess flowing with organization! I literally have no counter space! Cooking in volume is hard … ” she says on Facebook.

Once the food is ready, she’ll bring it all down to the camp and serve it up from a makeshift field kitchen. On Wednesday, she cooked baked spaghetti and Friday it was chicken breast and potato.

“Hopefully, we can definitely make an impact down there because one of the things I’m trying to encourage … is responsibility to the community, the whole community, not just their own. That means I don’t want them going into stores stealing food.”

While she serves up food, she also dishes out lessons in manners, seeking respectful behaviour from the residents. It doesn’t matter where you live, you still need manners, she says.

“Mama’s rules always have to be abided by. If they’re not, you get sent to the back of the line. We have to do that kind of thing to make sure that people don’t let their emotions get away from them.

“You come with an attitude of gratitude. Everybody gets the same respect. Everybody gets the same amount and unfortunately there isn’t always enough, so then I have to dish out littler portions. Try to get them a good meal.”

Last Sunday, she served a total of 42 people.

But those meals are still only being provided three times a week.

While the Salvation Army is a short walk away, camp organizer Tracy Scott said camp residents are afraid to leave their tents in case they’re removed by city bylaws department.

Instead, residents take turns getting meals so others can keep watch at the camp.

As of Tuesday, there were 34 tents at the Anita Place Tent City, said Scott. There is also now a first-aid centre set up in a camper and a homemade latrine, built after the city ordered the porta potty companyto remove its three portapotties.

An attempt by the City of Maple Ridge to clear the camp has been delayed until June 22, when lawyers head back to B.C. Supreme Court to get an injunction.

Darrell Pilgrim at the Salvation Army Ridge Meadows Ministries, said that the army doesn’t ask people who come to its community meal program, which serves lunch or dinner once a day, where they’re from.

“We have not seen a major increase to our meal program since the tent city opened, (in early May)” Pilgrim said.

The Salvation Army cancelled its drop-in community hygiene program last year where street people could get clean laundry and showers. Lack of funding and the desire to focus more on the residents who were staying at the shelter were the reasons for the service being cancelled.

Currently, nine former residents from the RainCity Housing temporary homeless shelter that closed May 31, are staying at the Salvation Army, sleeping on cots in the cafeteria. That service, funded by BC Housing, will run out in September.

But already four other residents from the shelter have found permanent homes, said Pilgrim.

Anika Polegato, executive-director with Alouette Addictions Services, said that the service’s five outreach workers try to connect with camp residents and ensure they know about the meal services around town.

“Each individual has the right to make their own choice,” about whether to access those services.

Outreach workers can then provide rides to wherever those food services are provided.

Because of health, safety and litter concerns, the Friends in Need Food Bank only provides food hampers to people who have permanent homes.

Camp residents can get light snacks when they stop in and are also referred to outreach workers who then can connect them with services and housing, said executive-director Mary Robson.

The food bank will also support any organization that’s trying to organize a meal service to help the homeless, she added.