Homeless man on the move again
Attempting to comply with a request from the City of White Rock, Ryan Ashe last week moved his belongings away from a Johnston Road bus stop to a corner of private property across the street.
“I’ll move my stuff over there and I’m not going to worry much about what they say after that,” the well-known homeless man said, shortly before packing up Friday morning the area he has called home for the past few months.
But Mayor Wayne Baldwin said it’s likely more will have to be done.
“We’re not going to make a deal out of it, but I’m thinking that it probably won’t be (enough),” Baldwin said that afternoon.
Ashe, a familiar face in White Rock for more than a decade, was approached to move last week, after city officials fielded dozens of complaints about his settlement just north of Thrift Avenue.
Ashe had located there after site preparation for a development at the intersection’s northeast corner forced him out of landscape shrubbery, and his belongings soon spread to take over the bus shelter.
In addition to the complaints, Ashe’s location adjacent to the construction site, where there is heavy equipment, was “starting to become a bit of a safety issue,” Baldwin had told Peace Arch News Thursday.
“There’s only that little wire or mesh thing separating him from machinery, so it’s not the best situation, on many counts.”
Police and bylaw officers approached Ashe on the matter Wednesday. On Friday morning, he was given until 2 p.m. to move on.
White Rock RCMP Const. Janelle Shoihet said at the scene that she was there only to keep the peace – something she was confident wouldn’t become an issue. Noting she likely wouldn’t return for the 2 p.m. deadline, Shoihet said that in all of her conversations with Ashe over the past six years, he has always said he prefers to live outside.
Ashe told PAN in December 2008 that he believes those who offer to help him find shelter interfere with his aura. His sister said at the time that Ashe went downhill after suffering severe head injuries in a crash about two decades ago.
Ashe’s niece – who met with him at the site Friday morning – described her uncle as “completely harmless.” Kimberly Martin said she remembers visiting Ashe when she was a child, at a White Rock apartment that her parents paid for until he stopped taking his medication and moved outdoors.
“I just hope that he’s able to find somewhere that people accept him,” Martin told Peace Arch News. “I think White Rock, out of anywhere else, is safest for him.”
Friday afternoon, Ashe’s belongings were tucked at the northwest corner of the intersection and the large blue tarp that once covered them was hung on the construction fencing behind the bus stop.
Asked where he planned to sleep that night, Ashe wouldn’t say. “Where I sleep is really nobody’s business but my own,” he said.
Coun. Helen Fathers, who learned of the plan to move Ashe through an April 19 Peace Arch News article, told Ashe she believed he had complied with the city’s request.
(Fathers later told PAN she was not there as a representative of the city in talking with Ashe, but to ensure Ashe was OK, “as I have known him for 20-plus years.”)
Fathers assured Ashe that the situation was not an attack.
“The concern is, nobody wants you to get hurt,” Fathers said. “Nobody’s got it out for you, Ryan.”
Baldwin said that since the situation hit the news last week, the city has seen the tide of complaints turn to calls in support of Ashe.
It doesn’t change what needs to be done, the mayor said.
Now that the bulk of Ashe’s belongings are on private property, the city will wait to see what, if anything, the property owner does about it. (The mall property owner could not be reached for comment at press deadline.)
In the meantime, efforts are continuing to try and find him a more acceptable abode.
The issue has become about more than just Ashe’s location, Baldwin said. Acknowledging that “perhaps we ignored it too long,” Baldwin said the bigger picture includes consideration of social and public-health standards.