Citizen’s committee looking for home for Maple Ridge homeless shelter

Its composition was decided Tuesday and already one meeting has taken place.

The Liberal MLAs have named their seven-person citizen’s committee that will decide on a location for a homeless shelter and supportive housing complex in Maple Ridge.

Doug Bing and Marc Dalton said they would create a committee in February, when they announced that 30 of the 40 people in the temporary homeless shelter on Lougheed Highway would move half a block to the Salvation Army Ridge Meadows Ministries. The arrangement is for six months and the residents will sleep on mats in the cafeteria for six months.

The remaining 10 homeless shelter residents will be found housing elsewhere.

“They’re just getting started now,” Bing said of the committee.

Its composition was decided Tuesday and already one meeting has taken place.

The committee, along with B.C. Housing, will try to find a spot for a new, supportive housing shelter. It will be paid for by B.C. Housing, at about $15 million, and could contain 60 beds.

Two previous locations, at 21375 Lougheed Hwy., and the Quality Inn, were both rejected by the MLAs following public outcry last year.

Bing said he doesn’t know how long it will take the committee to find a location, or if that will be decided before the May 9 B.C. election.

“It just depends on lots of things, I suppose.”

The MLAs didn’t want any past, present or possible future politicians on the committee.

“We picked these people because they seem to be responsible, reasonable people and were open. They’re very community-minded citizens and they’re very interested in the community,” Bing said.

He expects some common sense decision and discussion.

“We decided to make it non-political. There may be some people there who are seeking election in the near future. And we don’t want this to be used in a partisan or political way.”

In February, the MLAs also announced an “intensive case management team,” that would work with the temporary shelter residents to try to connect them to services.

Coun. Craig Speirs, though, said the committee and MLAs need to choose a housing location soon.

“Get on with the job. They have done nothing other than to say no to our solutions,” Speirs said.

“They’re going to announce that May 10,” after the election.

The City of Maple Ridge bought the property at 21375 Lougheed Hwy. as its contribution to building a supportive housing complex. It’s now looking at other uses for that property.

B.C. Premier Cristy Clark said in September that the MLAs would have the final say in selection a homeless shelter location, leading the city to give the consultation process for finding one over to the MLAs.

Members of the shelter advisory committee include:

• Dr. Paul Beckett;

• Christine Bickle, with Alouette Animal Hospital, which would have been next to the shelter had it been built at 21375 Lougheed Hwy. She organized a petition against that location;

• Lisa Sullivan, a resident of Cliff Avenue, who had to face the tent camp in front of her house in 2015;

• Rob Thiessen, managing director with the Hope for Freedom Society, which operates a faith-based shelter in Maple Ridge;

• Darin Froese, formerly with B.C. Housing, now with New Vista Society, a senior’s housing agency;

• Jessie Stretch, a Maple Ridge volunteer who collected used needles;

• Sandy Mcdougall, a former city councillor and Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows News journalist.