The citizens committee that had the difficult job of trying to find a place for a homeless shelter and supportive housing complex in Maple Ridge has made its case to the new New Democratic MLAs, Bob D’Eith and Lisa Beare.
“We both agreed one of the biggest problems Maple Ridge faces right now is the amount of misinformation that’s floating around,” said Jesse Stretch, who is one of the committee members.
The committee met last week with the new MLAs as they wait to see if they’ll take power in Victoria.
Outgoing Liberal MLAs Doug Bing and Marc Dalton formed the committee earlier this year as part of their goal of finding a location for a shelter in Maple Ridge, for which B.C. Housing has $15 million available.
The citizen’s committee released its report before the B.C. election in May, calling for the shelter not to be a low-barrier model and not to be located in the downtown.
Stretch said there’s lots of confusion about what actually is a low-barrier shelter, saying that every agency has its own definition.
“I don’t like the term low-barrier, medium-barrier.”
Stretch, though, said the committee’s model for a shelter met B.C. Housings conditions.
B.C. Housing won’t fund anything that doesn’t meet its definition of low-barrier, he added.
He also said that many people associate low-barrier with the temporary homeless shelter run by Rain City Housing on Lougheed Highway for two years.
That shelter closed in May.
The committee made several suggestions for shelter locations, the first of which was in the Albion Industrial Area.
But that property has since been sold.
The committee also considered the site of the present Anita Place Tent City property on St. Anne Avenue.
But Stretch says the property is too small and too close to the Haney Bypass.
He said the shelter should be located in a less visable location to give more privacy to its residents.
“At this point in time, nothing can be done anyways because nobody knows what’s going on with the provincial government,” Stretch said.
He agreed with Beare’s and D’Eiths position that larger issues have to be addressed.
“We need money for mental health, and addiction as well as housing. This isn’t just a housing issue. It’s an addiction issue. The homelessness is a symptom of these greater issues, and they’re full aware of that …
D’Eith, MLA for Maple Ridge-Mission, said he listened to the committee and that if the NDP is asked to form government, “we’ll be in a much better position to act on things.”
In the meantime, he’s trying to get as informed as possible on the issue, he said.
“We’re learning. We’re talking. We’re meeting the stakeholders so we can act when appropriate.”