Maple Ridge businesses, residents looking for relief from tent city

Both have been challenged by being near homeless camp.

Irfan Sonawala, as construction manager of a 66-unit condo building going up across from the Anita Place Tent City, wishes the homeless camp would go away.

Trying to wrap up the project has been problematic given its proximity to the camp, where there have been nine fires since its inception two years ago, not to mention numerous visits from city bylaws, police and the fire department.

The 66-unit condo building on 223rd Street has had eight broken windows on the side of the building facing the camp, including sundeck doors. Repairs added $20,000 to the project’s cost, said Sonawala, construction manager for Tender Bid Supply.

The broken windows have happened in the past few months, which he believes are the result of a slingshot.

And when power was cut to the camp last month, workers noticed a hole in the fence and found someone trying to access an electrical outlet on the construction site.

Thefts have increased at the construction site since October, Sonawala added. Tools have disappeared, as well as construction materials, including skids of plywood. 

The pilfering has caused him to post 24-hour security around the site, costing another $7,000 a month, while other projects only need security cameras.

Since the evacuation of the camp on March 1, under the order of the B.C. fire commissioner, with the presence of police and security guards, there have been no further incidents, Sonawala said.

But last week, some residents were allowed to return to tent city.

“Yes, we haven’t seen much … way better now,” Sonawala said this past week.

His main concern, though, is finding renters once the condo project is complete, because of the camp.

“We hope it goes away and it never comes back,” said Sonawala.

On Wednesday, the province announced it was buildings another 51 temporary modular units on Burnett Street to help clear the camp, and provide relief to the Port Haney area.

Others have noticed changes in the historic neighbourhood since the camp was established two years ago.

At Terrapacific Land Surveying, on St. Anne Avenue, half a block away from the camp, Doug Simpson said gasoline has been siphoned from the company’s vehicles at the back of the building.

At St. Anne Clinic, a specialist clinic with two general and one orthopedic surgeon, also opposite the camp, Dr. Surendra Patel said when Anita Place first opened, used needles were scattered in the parking lot every morning.

“It was just horrendous. You’ve got patients coming, including children, and you can understand their concerns,” Patel said.

After complaining to the city, the parking lot is now cleaned every day before business hours.

Last year, someone plugged an extension cord into the clinic’s outdoor lamp and ran it to the camp.

He sympathizes with the homeless, but said that the camp, where there have been nine fires, has been going on too long.

Everyone needs a place to live, but the residents also have to follow the rules, he added.

“The biggest problem, I think, were the explosions. I think the thing that really broke the camel’s back was the fires.”

Ramona Stimpfl is president of the strata council for a condo building on 117th Avenue, adjacent to tent city.

“I’m scared that I’m going to die in a fire … it’s going to flatten the whole neighbourhood,” she said of the two Feb. 27 fires at tent city.

Stimpfl said that urine and feces on the condo premises are almost daily events. She gets calls constantly from concerned residents, who are spit and screamed at. In late February, as she was telling someone he can’t set up his tent on the building’s property, Stimpfl said a man came towards her carrying a machete, although he wasn’t waving it at her.

“This is every day. The only break we had was when they cleared the camp. I’m scared to go outside.”

She said a man died of an overdose on an elderly couple’s patio, and that in the past year five families have moved out of the building.

The situation improved when the camp was evacuated on March 1.

She said that if the government puts in a supportive housing complex, it has to be part of a comprehensive facility that includes assessment, treatment, detox, rehabilitation, counselling, life skills and education, instead of random appointments with counsellors.



pmelnychuk@mapleridgenews.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

Just Posted

Barry Shantz in 2015 in front of a homeless camp at Gladys Avenue and Cyril Street. Abbotsford News file photo.
RCMP officers cleared in killing of Abbotsford homeless advocate

Barry Shantz was shot following a mental health crisis at his home on on Jan. 13, 2020,

Police tape is shown in Toronto Tuesday, May 2, 2017. (Graeme Roy/The Canadian Press)
CRIME STOPPERS: ‘Most wanted’ for the week of Oct. 18

Crime Stoppers’ weekly list based on information provided by police investigators

Local photographer Wolf Drescher spotted film crews set up along Esplanade Avenue in front of Canwest Art Gallery on the Lake on Thursday, October 1. Film production crews working on ‘Solitary’ will be around the area until close to the end of the month. (Contributed Photo/Wolf Drescher)
“Solitary” Update: Dramatic action scene to be filmed in Agassiz

‘Solitary’ will film a break-in, getaway at Kent Outdoors

A Rick Hansen Secondary School student died in hospital after suffering a medical incident in class on Monday. (File photo)
Abbotsford student dies after medical incident in class

Rick Hansen Secondary School offering additional counselling for students who require it

Stock photo
$93,000 in COVID-19 emergency support available to Abbotsford charities

Applications now open for grants through community foundation

FILE – People wait in line at a COVID-19 testing facility in Burnaby, B.C., on Thursday, August 13, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
167 new COVID-19 cases, 1 death recorded as B.C. enters 2nd wave

Three new healthcare outbreaks also announced

A black bear targets a bird feeder by the Rotary Trail along the Vedder River in Chilliwack on Oct. 7, 2020. (William Snow photo)
Public safety of residents cited as young bear euthanized

Human-habituated bear was hanging around residential areas and bird feeders near the Vedder River

Fraser Health is promoting that everyone get a flu shot, which are now available.
Flu shots more important during pandemic

Symptoms of flu and COVID-19 overlap, and so do precautions

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is seen during a news conference Tuesday October 20, 2020 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau and his family decide against trick-or-treating this year due to COVID

Adhering to local health authorities, Trudeau urges Canadians to do their part in following those guidelines

Surrey RCMP cruisers outside a Newton townhouse Tuesday night. (Photo: Shane MacKichan)
Toddler in hospital, woman dead following stabbings at Surrey townhouse

Police say two-year-old was among victims found at townhouse complex in the 12700-block of 66 Avenue

A Tim Hortons employee hands out coffee from a drive-through window to a customer in Mississauga, Ont., on March 17, 2020. Tim Hortons is ending the practice of double cupping hot drinks, a move the fast food restaurant says will eliminate hundreds of millions of cups from landfills each year. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
The end of double cupping: Tim Hortons ditches two cups in favour of one with sleeve

Most recycling facilities in Canada don’t recycle single use paper coffee cups because of a plastic lining

Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer doctor Theresa Tam responds to a question during a news conference Tuesday October 20, 2020 in Ottawa. Canada’s chief public health doctor says in the age of social media, fake news about the COVID-19 pandemic has been spreading faster than the virus itself. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
VIDEO: Fake news creates serious issues for battling pandemic, chief public health doc says

Both Tam and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau urged Canadians to be responsible about the information they share

This 2020 electron microscope image made available by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases shows a Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 particle isolated from a patient, in a laboratory in Fort Detrick, Md. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-NIAID/NIH via AP
At least 49 cases of COVID-19 linked to wedding in Calgary: Alberta Health

McMillan says the city of Calgary has recently seen several outbreaks linked to social gatherings

UBC geoscientists discovered the wreckage of a decades-old crash during an expedition on a mountain near Harrison Lake. (Submitted photo)
Wreckage of decades-old plane crash discovered on mountain near Harrison Lake

A team of Sts’ailes Community School students helped discover the twisted metal embedded in a glacier

Most Read