The provincial government has announced a new location to build a supportive housing and emergency shelter facility in Maple Ridge, as well as which organization will operate it, and the addition of modular housing for the homeless.
The province is spending $3.6 million to purchase property at 11749 and 11761 Burnett Street, just north of Lougheed Highway in the downtown area, for 40 new supportive housing units and relocation of up to 40 shelter beds.
“We know that a new approach is needed to help Maple Ridge’s most vulnerable residents,” said Selina Robinson, minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing.
“We are working across government to provide both short- and long-term solutions to address homelessness and housing affordability in a way that works for the city and its residents.”
That supportive housing facility will be run by the Salvation Army Ridge Meadows Ministries, which will move its shelter, currently located at 22188 Lougheed Highway, to the new site. The current Salvation Army location is to be used to expand the Haney Bypass.
“Supportive housing and shelters are an important intervention that saves lives and assists people to access the resources they need to achieve housing stability,” said Darrell Pilgrim, with the Salvation Army.
“We’re excited about this initiative and privileged to be able to work with the province to address the needs in Maple Ridge.”
Construction is expected to be complete in spring 2019.
Chris Bossley, who volunteers at Anita Place Tent City and administers its Facebook page, lives in the area of the proposed location, behind an oil change business, said homeless people are known to gather there already.
“I think it’s a great location,” she said.
“I walk my dog through there all the time,” Bossley added. “It’s an informal gathering place for homeless people already, at least before Anita Place Tent City was established.”
Grant Contois, who operates Express Care at 22855 Lougheed Highway, beside the proposed location, was part of a delegation of downtown businesses that complained to council in October about crime and safety issues stemming from the homeless camp.
Contois said he’s particularly concerned for residents of the seniors complex nearby.
“These guys are walking around with walkers and canes. I hope they’re going to be OK,” he said. “Putting it beside that seniors home, I think, is a huge mistake.”
He’s also concerned about a possible increase in vandalism at the shop.
Maple Ridge Mayor Nicole Read said the province didn’t consult the city about the location for the new facility and didn’t know many details about the announcement, made Thursday morning.
“We are waiting for more information now,” she said. “The city wasn’t involved in the site selection.”
She was looking into whether or not the property in question requires rezoning.
Read didn’t know whether the new facility will operate on an abstinence or low-barrier model.
“We have no details on that.”
Public information sessions to provide details on the new housing projects and mental-health and addictions services will be held later this month, according to the province.
“Our community – like communities across the province – has been struggling with serious housing and mental health and addictions issues for far too long,” said MLA Bob D’Eith, Maple Ridge-Mission.
“People deserve better and I’m looking forward to continuing to work with constituents and the City of Maple Ridge to move our community forward.”
Coun. Kiersten Duncan expects the project to be controversial, but complemented the government for taking on the project.
“The previous provincial government wouldn’t and they backed down on plans because of public backlash. I’m really excited that this government is taking a different approach,” she said.
“They’re coming forward with this. They’re not backing down. They’re still making sure the public is a part of the discussions. They’re not afraid of hate.”
The province is also allocating $15 million to an affordable rental housing project being discussed with Maple Ridge on property the city owns at 21375 Lougheed Hwy., for housing and supports for families and seniors.
That property, next to Maple Ridge Cemetery, was initially purchased for the supportive housing facility, but met with much community backlash, as was a previous proposal to buy the Quality Inn for the same purpose.
A new modular housing project is also being planned to house the homeless, including those at the homeless camp on St. Anne Avenue.
The B.C. government is working to purchase land to build temporary high-support modular housing. It is also looking at using repurposed modular housing for a period of one-to-two years. The units would include a private washroom, meals, support services and 24-hour staffing.
Following this, more permanent housing will be designed in consultation with the community and made available for rent.
A site is not yet confirmed.
Furthermore, the province will increase support for mental health and addictions care in Maple Ridge through the Intensive Case Management Team.
“Each person is affected differently by mental-health and addictions challenges,” said Minister of Mental Health and Addictions Judy Darcy. “That’s why the Intensive Case Management Team is well-placed to help anyone living in the new supportive housing units. The team focuses on providing each person with the mental-health, addictions and social supports they need on their journey to recovery. This is an example of how we are working across government and with partners across sectors to build a more seamless, co-ordinated mental-health and addictions system in B.C. so people can ask once and get help fast.”
Last March, then-MLAs Doug Bing and Marc Dalton announced funding for a new Intensive Case Management team, to help find homes for 40 high-needs people who’d been staying at RainCity Housing’s temporary homeless shelter on Lougheed Highway for 18 months.
That shelter initially opened to clear a homeless camp on Cliff Avenue.
A petition has already started against the proposed location of the new supportive housing and emergency shelter facility.
“With two schools [Golden Ears elementary and Thomas Haney secondary], a seniors home and two condominium buildings, with a new one about to be built, the purpose shelter location is not the best place. There are many small business within 10 minutes walking distance of the proposed shelter, including A&W, a pizza place and a small shopping centre [ValleyFair Mall],” reads the petition, started by Eric Boland Zaharia.
Robinson said that Maple Ridge has struggled because the previous government didn’t do a good job communicating the value of social housing projects.
“When people have more information about what it means to have space in your community for people who need extra support – we’re all better for it.”
Robinson said that more than 70 per cent of the people who stayed at 3030 Gordon shelter in Coquitlam now have their own places to live.