Fraser Health officers visited Maple Ridge tent city on Friday. (Contributed)

Maple Ridge moving to ‘decamp’ tent city

Intestinal virus sweeping through camp.

Fraser Health and B.C. Housing are starting the long process of closing the homeless camp.

“B.C. Housing is dealing with the St. Anne’s protest camp and is working on solutions to move to a decampment as soon as possible,” said a Friday a statement on the City of Maple Ridge website.

Fraser Health and B.C. Housing are also working closely with the city to provide essential health services while people are in the camp.

People are falling sick at the Anita Place Tent City, suffering from nausea, diarrhea and vomiting.

Fraser Health environmental health officers stopped by Friday to assess the condition of the people living in the homeless camp, in downtown Maple Ridge.

Tasleem Juma, with Fraser Health, said officials aren’t saying if it’s any particular virus, only that it’s an intestinal disease that lasts for about two days.

“And they feel much better after that,” she said.

“We can’t confirm what it is because we don’t have lab testing done.”

During their visit, health officers talked to residents there and advised them to stay hydrated and practise good hand hygiene. They left bottled water and hand sanitizer and will make further checks at the camp.

“We aren’t calling it an outbreak. It’s simply a cluster of cases that has been brought to our attention,” Juma said.

The virus is not considered a food-borne virus and Fraser Health hasn’t heard any concerns from the general community, said Dr. Ingrid Tyler, medical health officer.

Fraser Health believe it is contained to the camp. If Fraser Health later considers it an outbreak, it will post that on its website.

“For now, it looks like it’s very local,” Juma said.

It’s difficult to ascertain the number of people who are actually sick because they come and go from the camp, she added.

“The City of Maple Ridge remains in regular contact with B.C. Housing and Fraser Health and supports their work to manage the health and welfare of the people in the camp and move towards a decampment,” says the statement from the city.

It hasn’t installed a water supply line to the camp but it’s still working with the city to ensure that police or security patrol the area.

Mayor Nicole Read said B.C. Housing has some ideas about where the people will be moved to and will discuss that with city council. She said about 40 people are in the camp.

She said the camp needs to disperse as soon as possible but doesn’t exactly know how long that process will take.

Tracey Scott, one of the camp organizers, said that B.C. Housing has talked to camp residents recently and is trying to work out a project that all can support.

But residents don’t want the supervised access that’s now in place in Alouette Heights (supportive housing complex) following Coast Mental Health taking over the operation of that facility earlier this year.

“We don’t want to have a place and all of a sudden they’ve barred the windows. So now it’s a cross between a mental institution and a jail. Would you want to live like that?”

The Alliance Against Displacement previously asked for 100 modular homes, tiny, self-contained suites that cost about $75,000 each, as a condition for decampment.

But Scott said 200 units are needed, ideally on the present location of the tent city. “That would be awesome if they could.” The location is away from most residences but close to services, she added.

Camp organizers recently did a count and realized there’s a greater need for housing but didn’t yet have an exact number.

B.C. Housing has to visit every city to start working on the causes of homeless so it doesn’t keep recurring every year, she added.

Read said the announcement of the decampment isn’t related to the virus that’s currently in the camp and that it’s just a general update.

B.C. Premier John Horgan announced last week $291 million over three years to build 2,000 modular housing units. However, there’s been no announcement for anything planned for Maple Ridge.

Council is still negotiating with the province about a new $15-million shelter and supportive housing complex with the province but it is split on the issue.

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Solutions still being sought to disband camp. (Phil Melnychuk/THE NEWS)

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