A group in Maple Ridge says it is stepping in to push homeless people struggling with addiction and/or mental health issues out of what it considers gaps in legislation and policing.
Jamie Seip, an organizer of Clean up Maple Ridge, claims the group has driven, flown or ferried hundreds of such people from the streets of Maple Ridge back to the towns and cities they came from. He said the group is meeting the needs of residents fed up with socially unacceptable behaviour because police and government aren’t.
Others say what the group is doing is not helping those who need help the most.
In a recent video produced by the group, Seip and other volunteers were depicted removing a young female occupant and several of her guests from a house. The co-owner of the home, who identifies herself only as Kim, claims the occupant was involved in illegal activity and refused to leave the premises. Seip declined to share Kim’s contact information, stating she did not want to speak to media.
“We went the legal route to get rid of them and we didn’t get any help. … So, here we are,” Kim states.
The video captures Seip ordering the occupant to pack her belongings and get out. After she leaves, it shows a messy home filled with hypodermic needles, and zooms in on a handful of identity cards with different names, faces and addresses, male and female.
The occupant, who stated in the video that she did “dope,” claimed she arrived at the house years prior by invite of its other owner. He “knew everything about me when I moved in here. He asked me to move in here with him and be his partner,” she said.
The occupant was told the group would call the Salvation Army to “see if they can get you in there and get you on a better path to life.”
Through most of the video, several Mounties stand across the street, observing.
Ridge Meadows RCMP was not immediately available for comment.
Seip said Clean up Maple Ridge originated as neighbours helping neighbours do the work nobody else was, such as cleaning up garbage.
“A lot of people are kind of fed up with what’s happening to our society, with all the different socially unacceptable behaviour,” he said.
The group now does six patrols a day of what it considers “troubled areas,” making contact with street people, Seip said. Its members film everything with body cameras, dashcams and drones, he said. Money for relocations comes from fundraising, and the group spent under $5,000 on that last year, he said.
Asked whether he believed the group was engaged in vigilante justice, Seip said: “We’re Ridgilanties. Are we vigilantes? Absolutely not.”
Seip said he is a former addict who was strong-armed onto a path of recovery by an uncle who drove to Nanaimo to retrieve him, slapped him across the face, and made him chop wood until he got clean.
“Bottom line is, I really wish that our government would act as the rock bottom these people need.”
Christine Bossley, who volunteered at Maple Ridge’s now-defunct Anita Place tent city and is connected to members of the city’s homeless population, recognized at least one of the house guests in the video as a former tent city resident.
Bossley decried the work of Seip’s group.
“As far as I’m concerned, they don’t want any solutions for homelessness in Maple Ridge except to get them out of Maple Ridge.”
People who are homeless are often transient and are more than welcome to move around the Lower Mainland, the province, and the country, she said.
Bossley pointed out the at-times disparaging manner in which some members of the group talked about those they were evicting, and asked: “Do you really think they’re trying to help?”
When told the number of people Seip claimed the group has moved, Bossley balked and asked to see their names.
Asked if Mayor Mike Morden was aware of the group, Maple Ridge spokesman Mick Ramos said the mayor was not involved with it. Ramos said community safety was a top priority for the mayor and council, and he said the city hoped to secure funding for a new brick-and-mortar treatment centre.