There’s still no word on a timeline for a proposed temporary homeless shelter in Maple Ridge, but no matter where one is located, Amelia Norrie expects public backlash.
And any shelter serving the homeless population would still need to be accessible to the downtown core,” said Norrie, public relations coordinator for the Salvation Army’s Caring Place.
She said whether that means being more on the peripheries of what the city deems to be downtown Maple Ridge is up for debate, but any shelter needs to be within walking distance for the majority of people it serves.
Norrie said the Caring Place would consider a move from its current location, but said it provides services to a wide range of people in Maple Ridge.
“Remember we at the Caring Place are not only serving some of the people who are living on Cliff Avenue, we are also dealing with low income families and individual seniors who have limited mobility and accessibility,” she said.
Norrie said there is bound to be backlash once the city announces its location. She was involved with the construction of the Salvation Army’s Gateway of Hope project in Langley in November of 2009 and said it’s always a concern for the people who live in that neighbourhood, especially when you are dealing with the marginalized portion of the population.
“Definitely the NIMBY idea was strong and very outspoken,” said Norrie, “but since then the community have gotten use to the idea, have learned and grown to appreciate the work the Salvation Army does.”
Mayor Nicole Read said there’s still no word on the timeline for the shelter, but says she expects city staff to bring forward recommendations within the next week.
Read said she hasn’t seen the options staff are considering.
The mayor said despite recent claims by Cliff Avenue business operator Dr. Liz Zubek that the camp is growing, city numbers suggest otherwise.
“With respect to Liz Zubek giving you numbers, I don’t really know how to respond to that, other than, we report the numbers out every single week. We send them to Doug Bing, Mark Dalton, B.C. Housing, so our numbers are firm,” said Read. “The numbers have not changed. We are static at 32 tents or less. And we have, depending on the week, between 55 and 65 people down there, so those numbers have remained quite static.”
The mayor said the city is going to great lengths to be get an exact handle on the situation on Cliff Avenue.
“We are obviously taking a lot of pains to count the numbers exactly and I think it’s really important that the whole community know that the numbers are recorded accurately, not on a hearsay sort of basis,” said the mayor.
Fred Armstrong, manager of corporate communications at city hall, said as of last Friday there were 32 occupied tents on the site. However, there are a number of tents set up that contain “hoarded items.”
Bylaws has been keeping a “rigorous count,” and is there two or three times a week, he said.
As well he said is some flow between the main camp and a much smaller camp set up on St. Ann Avenue.
Once a temporary shelter is established, Read said she expects a majority of those on cliff Avenue will be housed. However, those who don’t will be moved from Cliff Avenue.
“There will be a percentage of people there, like there will be with any camp, who will refuse treatment and housing and the city can’t force these people into treatment and housing. So that’s why our outreach workers are working with them to encourage them to seek the services and the funding is obviously available to them to get housing. In that case, once we get the temporary shelter open we will seek the injunction and we will clear Cliff Avenue, said Read.