Homeless feel mistreated

A Port Coquitlam homeless man says police and bylaw officers routinely seize his belongings and are trying to push people like him out of the community.

Ross Brydon has lived on the streets for more than 15 years and currently resides in a tent along the Coquitlam River. He said it is not uncommon for homeless people like him to return to their camps to find all of their possessions gone and a card for 1-800-GOT-JUNK left behind. 

"They will take everything," he said. "If you haven't moved when they tell you to leave, if you aren't gone by their set warning time ... they will seize everything."

A tent, a bike, some food and identification are among the items Brydon said have been taken over the years. The few possessions he owns, he added, he relies on for survival. 

“I don’t understand the thinking behind it,” he said. “Where does it help to take someone’s possessions? Anyone that hopes to assimilate back into society, they are not going to do it by having bylaws [officers] seize their belongings.”

Paula Jones, Port Coquitlam's manager of bylaw services, said in a statement that homelessness is a "complex and challenging issue." She added that staff do a lot to connect homeless people in the community with services and outreach programs.

"The city's bylaw services division's first priority is to check on the individuals' wellbeing and ask if they need outreach services and refer them accordingly," she said. "They have never taken down active camps without fair notice and always give the individuals the opportunity to take what they want and then we dispose of what is left behind."

However, the treatment Brydon said he has experienced at the hands of police and bylaw officers prompted him to get involved with Alliance Against Displacement. Thursday afternoon, the organization held a rally in front of the Port Coquitlam courthouse and marched into Coquitlam, where demonstrators attempted to set up what they called the “We Exist Tent City” in a vacant lot next to a homeless shelter and transitional housing.

But attempts to set up a tent city in Coquitlam were thwarted Thursday when the RCMP ordered protestors to vacate the lot. After a couple of hours and multiple meetings between activists and Mounties, the marchers agreed to disband their camp and move out.

Mayor Richard Stewart said Coquitlam has been supportive of initiatives to help the homeless, pointing to the Gordon Avenue shelter, which sits on land provided by the municipality. Council also recently approved re-instating a cold/wet weather mat program, which provides shelter to people during the winter months. 

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