‘What makes them more important than me?’

Ryan Ashe has called the streets of White Rock home for more than a decade.  - Tracy Holmes photo
Ryan Ashe has called the streets of White Rock home for more than a decade.
— image credit: Tracy Holmes photo

A man who has called various corners of uptown White Rock home for more than a decade will be made to move this week.

Mayor Wayne Baldwin said the city has no option but to have Ryan Ashe relocate, after fielding more than a dozen calls daily over the past two weeks regarding his settlement at a bus stop near Johnston Road and Thrift Avenue.

“We’re getting a lot of complaints,” Baldwin said Monday. “We just can’t have somebody camping on the street.”

Ashe disagrees.

“Why would I want to move?” he said Tuesday morning, when told of the complaints.

“We all get complaints. I get complaints every day. I just ignore them.

“There is no issue, and since there is no issue, why should there be any complaints?”

Baldwin said the situation arose after blue construction fencing went up around the lot at the intersection’s northeast corner. Ashe had in recent months been staying in landscape shrubbery at the farthest northeast tip of the lot, his belongings tucked away from the sidewalk and, for the most part, out of sight.

Peace Arch News December 21, 2008But that changed when Ashe was forced to vacate. He set up camp just metres away, by the bus shelter on the east side of Johnston Road. His belongings were piled immediately adjacent to the shelter, covered with tarps that are secured with Zap Straps to the temporary fencing.

Baldwin noted shopping carts of Ashe’s belongings often clutter the sidewalk, and callers – women in particular – have reported feeling like they can’t use the shelter to wait for the bus.

“We’re going to have to move him,” he said.

Acknowledging that Ashe has been a fixture of sorts in White Rock for years without issue, the mayor said it was Ashe’s takeover of the shelter and sidewalk that prompted the latest decision.

Before, “it wasn’t in everybody’s face,” Baldwin said. “Now it is.”

Baldwin didn’t know exactly when Ashe would be approached to move, but said it would be this week, and hopefully with the assistance of people who can offer him resources; likely a representative of Sources Community Resource Centre and White Rock community policing.

In the past, Ashe has refused offers of shelter. He told Peace Arch News in December 2008 that he feared catching “social disease” and believed that those making the offer interfered with his aura.

The current situation is one some area residents had predicted would happen.

Peter Saunders told PAN last week that he is worried about what might happen to Ashe, who, he said, many people in the community look out for.

“Where is he going to end up? That’s what I’m concerned with,” Saunders said.

Saunders said Ashe doesn’t bother anybody, and believes citizens care about him, in part, because they realize their own good fortune.

“I think that people, myself included, think that but for the grace of God go I, sort of thing,” he said.

Saunders is hopeful a local business will see fit to let Ashe settle in behind a shop or in a laneway; somewhere off the beaten path.

Ashe – who says he has lived on the streets for 23 years, and lives with the effects of severe head injuries suffered in a car crash more than two decades ago – said he hasn’t moved more than two blocks in the past 10 years, and he can’t see why others’ concerns are being given precedence over his privacy.

“What makes people with issues more important than I?

“Do you see anybody in the parking lot there?” he said, motioning to an empty Hillcrest Plaza lot across the street. “You see anybody behind me? Then who’s complaining?”

Asked what will happen if Ashe resists relocating, Baldwin said officials will “cross that bridge when we come to it.”

- with files from Sarah Massah



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