Despite assurances that the city will try to minimize the impact from the new temporary shelter that opens soon in the downtown, Louis Bayard is worried.
Mostly so about grocery carts being parked outside his Louis Leather store, across from the new shelter on Lougheed Highway in downtown Maple Ridge.
And also about how he’ll react if he sees someone else using the front of his store as a bathroom, as happened Monday morning.
“Forty of them in one room, they’ll have their buggies all over the place.”
Homeless people are already starting to use the back alley behind the temporary shelter as a bathroom, he added.
“They go there and pee right in the corner.”
On Thursday, RainCity Housing is hosting an open house at the location of the new shelter, in the old Sleep Shop building at 222nd Street and Lougheed Highway.
The meeting will allow neighbouring businesses to get to know the shelter operators so they can deal with any issues, said Sean Spear, with RainCity.
He opened 14 similar shelters around Vancouver and said RainCity tries to be as responsive as possible when issues arise.
The goal of the temporary city shelter is to find residents permanent housing or support. The time for that will vary for each person.
The shelter will have 40 cots in an open space, a lounge area, washrooms and laundry. Food service is still being arranged and there will be some storage space.
Because it’s a 24-hour shelter, people will be able show up when they want, thus avoiding long lineups of everybody arriving at once. As well, being able to remain inside will give people a chance to rest instead of being turned out on to the streets during the day.
The temporary shelter is considered “low barrier,” meaning that people using drugs or alcohol won’t be turned away or required to be abstinent.
“The reality is that people use … but open drug use and open alcohol use, that’s not the scene you would find in the shelter either. They’ll find ways to do that.”
“People will do that otherwise,” Spear said.
The shelter isn’t set up as a supervised injection centre, he pointed out. Some people at the shelter may be at the point where they’re getting off drugs, he added.
“As far as it being a barrier, people are coming indoors and that’s not a barrier to service. If they continue to use substances, yes we find ways to provide as much safety and security around that, but it’s not an open situation or a fully sanctioned set up like a fully supervised injection site.”
A privacy fence will provide some security around the site.
Spear said the shelter will meet the basic needs of people and allow them to connect to services, “and start to pick up some of the pieces.”
So far, RainCity is on schedule for the October opening, although it’s still trying to work out the logistics of food provision.
“It’s definitely an urgent situation that we’re responding to. We’ve been able to mobilize and respond quickly.”
It’s a lot of work right up opening day, Spear said.
B.C. Housing is paying the shelter’s operating costs, while the City of Maple Ridge is paying the monthly rent for the building for six months and for renovations.
Bayard would like lighting in the alley way near the shelter to be improved. And he wonders is the Cliff Avenue homeless camp will actually be disbanded.
“They’re going to end up throwing me in jail,” if he sees someone else use his storefront as a bathroom.
“Me, I can take care of it.”
Fears that the shelter won’t be temporary are echoed in a petition being circulated. It claims that people are upset because there’s been no consultation about the shelter.
A letter from the city, though, explains that it had to move quickly in order to start the process of removing the six-month-old homeless camp on Cliff Avenue, behind the Salvation Army.
“The shelter will close in March of 2016,” the city says in a letter to area businesses.