After a few nights at the Anita Place Tent City and Bradley Christianson-Barker and Nathan Sands agree – the time spent there was quieter than many a night Golden Ears Provincial Park campground.
They didn’t see, for those few days at least, drug-fueled rages, fights, mayhem or chaos.
Christianson-Barker is pastor at the Open Door Church in Maple Ridge and Sands is one of the congregation. Both spent Saturday to Tuesday at the camp, hunkered down in their tents, in the mud beside the Haney Bypass in an attempt to show support to those staying there.
“It’s been a good few days,” said Christianson-Barker.
The exercise was a religious and political one and both agree that homelessness is a complex issue, one that’s multi-layered and has developed over time, and that there are no quick, easy answers.
“We want solutions also,” Christian-Barker said.
The tent camp isn’t acceptable, he agrees.
“Yet this what we have.”
The tent city, which opened in early May, continues to draw criticism online, but Christianson-Barker wants to get out the message that the camp is an issue that involves the entire community. Every resident there has his or her own story, and many just didn’t get a second or third or fourth chance to straighten out their lives, as others have. “Just like all of us.”
When critics say that feeding people in the camp, or allowing the camp to stand just enables people to continue an unhealthy lifestyle, Christianson-Barker says: “That sounds pretty messed up to me.”
If you believe that by ignoring people, the issue will go away – it won’t, he says.
The camp is this is their way of saying, that they deserve shelter just like every other member of the community.
Sands adds that every Canadian citizen “has the right to a home.”
Both say they were welcomed at the camp and treated like guests. They said they saw people sharing whatever they had, while the nights were quiet. If there was drug use, people were doing so inside their tents. They didn’t see any delirious addicts tripping out.
“We haven’t seen anything crazy,” Christianson-Barker said.
“I haven’t seen a single needle,” added Sands.
Religious convictions meld with political perspectives.
“The early church took people in and cared for one another. It was a true community. This is what the early church would like,” the pastor said.
He wants his small church, with its few resources, to do more and plans on returning to the tent city.
“These are the people that Jesus talked about,” Sands said.
Larger churches in Maple Ridge with land, money and power, should speak out as well, he added, and help where they can.
“To me, it’s all political and I don’t like it when churches become political.
“It just doesn’t make sense to me.”
Tuesday in Vancouver Supreme Court, two days were put aside, June 27 and 28, to hear the City of Maple Ridge’s application for a court order to remove the camp.