Attendance at the Ridge Meadows Home Show this past weekend was up from the previous year, despite the presence of a booth collecting signatures for a petition opposing the proposed location of housing for the homeless.
The Home Show took place Friday to Sunday, with sunny weather all weekend, at the Albion Fairgrounds in Maple Ridge.
In the event’s community section, located inside Planet Ice, the Burnett Street Neighbours booked a space to display its petition opposing the supportive housing complex proposed for Burnett Street.
B.C. Housing has applied to the City of Maple Ridge to put an 85-unit supportive housing and shelter complex at 11749 Burnett St. It’s also building a 55-unit, temporary modular housing complex at 22548 Royal Cres., without seeking city approval.
Coun. Craig Speirs, though, said the Burnett Street Neighbours booth was out of place at the show.
“It’s the Home Show, and they’re anti-home,” he said.
But Home Show executive-director Cass Winder noted that many political causes participate in the home show. The B.C. Liberals, had a booth, as did the NDP MLAs, as did the federal Liberal and Conservative parties, as well as both the cities of Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows. And former Green party candidate Peter Tam hung a banner at the show.
“We’ve done this for years. Anything to do with the community,” Winder said.
Having the Burnett Street Neighbours booth drew criticism and praise, she added.
“There is ultimately a personal choice as to whether you engage with a group or walk by.”
She said those at the booth were well behaved and kept within the booth, as home show policies require, so that aisles are not blocked. The booth was booked at the last minute when a space became available.
While people criticized the booth’s presence online, many people visited the Home Show specifically to see what was going on, Winder said. She didn’t receive any complaints about the booth from fellow exhibitors or visitors.
“We are not anti-homeless, or anti-homes, we are Switzerland – we are neutral,” Winder added.
“We’re really great believers in that the best way to educate politicians is for them to talk to the electorate and the best way for the electorate to get things off their chest is by talking to the politicians.”
Burnett Street Neighbours spokesperson Ahmed Yousef, who is considering running for Maple Ridge council, said the group collected another 1,500 signatures at the Home Show, where he tried to get people to understand his group’s viewpoint.
He said about 20 individuals donated to book the booth for the group.
Yousef said it’s a great Home Show and there’s a community section for such issues and many people suggested the group be there.
He will present the petition, which now has 8,600 names, to Maple Ridge council Tuesday.
The group’s petition opposes supportive housing on Burnett Street and wants any housing to follow the citizens’ advisory committee petition recommendations as a template for any project.
“Our cause is simply to have our voices heard, and to have that proper consultation process the provincial government is meant to have,” said Yousef.
Chris Bossley, a volunteer at Anita Place Tent City, said it was a poor decision to allow the Burnett Street Neighbours booth.
“I think what it does, it colours everyone, any exhibitor at the Home Show, as being supportive of this anti-shelter stance.”
Winder said the show drew about 24,000 people, up from the previous year, when over 20,000 attended, and there seemed to be more families attending this year, possibly because of the $7 family rate and free parking.