A group of citizens is taking down homeless camps in Maple Ridge, hauling tents and other materials to the dump, and metal – including bike parts – to the recycling depot.
Jamie Seip speaks for the group. He spoke last spring during the Rally for Ridge public protests of the low-barrier supportive housing shelter on Burnett Street. That housing complex just opened Tuesday.
“We’re not displacing anybody,” Seip said. “We’re cleaning up messes left behind. If it’s unoccupied, it’s gone.”
Seip said they have cleaned up four tons of trash in six days, and noted “it’s all out of pocket, and it’s all on our own time.”
Seip maintains they are taking action where police and bylaws cannot.
“Governments tend to over-complicate things,” said Seip.
“If the government did what we are doing, it would cost $300,000 for the pilot year.”
They are not being heartless, said Seip, and explained he gave a homeless girl who had been stranded in Maple Ridge a ride back to her home town of Chilliwack. He drove another person to Port Coquitlam.
There have been no altercations. He has checked with RCMP and bylaws and has not been told to cease and desist, he added.
“We’ve had RCMP and bylaws literally high-fiving us,” said Seip.
There have been a lot of positive and encouraging comments about the group’s work posted in social media.
The group checks the sites they have “cleared,” which include a vacant lot on 228th Street, and a wooded area of 232nd Street and another near Glenwood elementary school, near Laity Street and 121st Avenue.
Chris Bossley, who was an advocate for the homeless people living at the Anita Place Tent City, has asked police to investigate.
“This ridiculous activity against people who are homeless is unacceptable as far as I’m concerned,” she said.
“Basically what they are doing is tearing down people’s homes …”
Other detractors have called the group’s actions vigilantism and cruel in their social media posts. Bossley has complained to Ridge Meadows RCMP.
Police said they have no comment at this time.
Bossley said she would be at the Tuesday night meeting of Maple Ridge council to bring the matter to the city’s attention.
She fears the group’s activities will lead to violent confrontations.
“I don’t understand how people can take the law into their own hands, and there are no consequences,” said Bossley. “This has to be nipped in the bud.”
If there is violence, it will not come from his group, said Seip.
“We are not going to hurt a soul,’ he said, adding the goal is to “One block at a time, make it a little better.”