A sudden hail storm swamped Anita Place Tent City this summer. (THE NEWS/files)

B.C. Housing pressing for permanent supportive housing

Wants to speed up process in Maple Ridge

B.C. Housing is working on clearing Maple Ridge’s homeless camp, with the construction of a permanent, supportive housing complex as one of its goals.

B.C. Housing said Wednesday it wants to work with Maple Ridge’s newly elected council “to develop a housing plan for people residing at Anita Place camp.”

B.C. Housing also wants to “expedite” the construction of permanent, supportive housing units in Maple Ridge, said spokesperson Laura Mathews.

The most recent proposal for an 85-bed supportive housing and shelter complex on Burnett Street was rejected last spring by the previous council.

B.C. Housing said earlier this week that 65 people remain at Anita Place Tent City on 223d Street after 25 left to live in the temporary modular housing units that just opened on Royal Crescent.

It also said it’s encouraging other camp residents to go to shelters or find apartments, assisted by rental supplements.

But camp volunteer and former council candidate Chris Bossley said shelters are not substitutes for housing. And it was never expected that the 53 units at the temporary modular housing site on Royal Crescent would be enough to allow the clearing of the camp, she added.

Incoming mayor Mike Morden, who hasn’t yet been sworn in, said that he’s still focused on getting council up and running. Its inaugural meeting is Tuesday.

But he said he’s meeting with both government NDP MLAs, Bob D’Eith and Lisa Beare, “to find exactly where we are and what we can do to solve problems. And that can be done by working together.

“I need to find out exactly what their mandate exactly is and what we’ll be able to do in order to solve a problem in our community. A lot of that comes down to the model, and I want to have discussions with them.

“We understand and appreciate that there is $15 million on the table and it’s up to the city to pick it up.”

Once council’s in place, members will discuss that, he added.

“But my initial work is to open up lines of communication and a willingness to work together with B.C. Housing and a willingness to work together with all the partners required in order to solve a problem present in our community.”

B.C. Housing has said that it’s up to the city to select a location for a supportive housing complex after the previous council rejected the Burnett Street location.

For Morden, the most important factor is the operating model of a shelter. He said earlier that Fraser Health has to be part of the project, along with detox treatment and long-term recovery.

That could take the form of a pilot project, he added.

In 2015, he opposed using the Quality Inn as B.C. Housing’s site for a 60-bed low-barrier supportive housing complex and shelter, the first such site considered, then rejected.

He also opposed the modular home project, saying there was no long-term treatment and would affect the downtown.

Bossley agreed that it’s possible the city, with a new mayor and council, and B.C. Housing could agree on a location and operating model for a new supportive housing facility, which could allow the clearing of Anita Place Tent City.

“But the location would have to be right. It can’t be out in the middle of nowhere.”

Bossley said that a location has to be accessible to services and pointed out that B.C. Housing only funds low-barrier facilities, where some degree of drug use is permitted.

Bossley would also like the province to use the tendering process to determine an operator for any new supportive housing facility and not just automatically awarding it to one, as was done initially with the Salvation Army for Burnett St.

There is some reason for cautious optimism with a new council in place, she agreed.

“I did not think there was reason for optimism with this new council. However, if they are willing to sit down at the table with the province and be reasonable with their expectations, I will be cautiously optimistic.

“However, the jury is still out and I will await the result of those negotiations.”

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