White Rock’s most visible longtime street person was removed from a bus stop by police and paramedics last weekend, but it’s not known why and for how long.
City officials deferred questions regarding Ryan Ashe’s removal to Fraser Health. Police would also not comment, other than to confirm they were involved.
Citing confidentiality, Fraser Health spokesman Roy Thorpe-Dorward said he could not confirm if Ashe was taken to hospital under the Mental Health Act.
At least one resident is wondering whether a recent letter to the editor to Peace Arch News, criticizing the relocation of “the White Rock hobo… half a block at a time,” had anything to do with his removal.
“It’s uncanny timing if it’s just coincidental,” said Lance Spurr. “Nothing happened for what, three decades, and the letter comes out and bam – they swooped down and got him. They never ever took him for vagrancy… never did anything to Ryan.”
Susan Pichette had written PAN with concerns the homeless man was ruining her neighbourhood by taking over various areas around Hillcrest Plaza with his belongings and that he was defecating in public.
She described him as “dirty and scary looking” and suggested few of those who feel sorry for him would like him in their neighbourhood.
“So why does he get to live in White Rock and make our area look ‘slummy’?” Pichette wrote in a letter published Sept. 27.
In the days that followed, PAN received letters indicating disagreement with Pichette.
A week after her letter was printed, police and paramedics removed Ashe from his latest ‘camp’ at a bus stop on Thrift Avenue just west of Johnston Road.
“My wife sees him a couple times a day, and he was normal – for Ryan – on the morning they took him,” Spurr said.
Spurr’s daughter, Meadow, was so motivated by Pichette’s letter, she joined fellow Earl Marriott Secondary students Madison Morris and Neil MacAlister in a peaceful protest in uptown White Rock Saturday.
“When we read the letter… we just really felt that we wanted to get our own opinion out there,” the 18-year-old said. “We just disagreed with her wording of him.”
The trio held their protest for about three hours, first in Bryant Park and then by Hillcrest Plaza.
Carrying signs that read ‘What was Ryan charged with?’, ‘We don’t feel sorry for marginalized people, we value them as human beings’ and ‘Are we allowed to sit here?’, they received both negative and positive response.
“We just wanted to raise awareness of social injustice; how often people overlook homeless people or judge them harshly,” Meadow Spurr said. “We were surprised by how many people reacted… very negatively. Some people yelled at us, some people shook their heads and gave us not nice faces.”
She said she has no regrets about taking a stand, and hopes the effort raises awareness that the homeless are people, too.
“I don’t think that anything is one-sided. Lots of things have different perspectives,” she said.
“It could be positive in that we did get to raise awareness for our side of the coin.”
Sunday, Pichette wrote PAN a second time, responding to her initial letter’s detractors and noting she was happy it initiated conversation on the issue.