UPDATE: Minister gives Maple Ridge until end of week on supportive housing

Emergency shelter takes in 35 from Maple Ridge homeless camp

The City of Maple Ridge has been given until the end of the week to agree on another supportive housing complex within the city, or the province will proceed on its own.

Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Selina Robinson said Tuesday that her department is willing to work with the city on providing a “full spectrum” of affordable housing.

“But given the urgency of the situation, the province is not willing to wait any longer before starting on the additional supportive housing that people need,” Robinson added.

She has told Mayor Michael Morden if there’s no agreement by the end of the week “… we will act ourselves to deliver the urgently-needed supportive housing for people in Maple Ridge.”

Her statement follows Saturday’s evacuation of the Anita Place Tent City camp, upon order of the B.C. fire commissioner, following three fires at the camp in the previous week.

People from the tent city were directed to the old mattress shop on Lougheed Highway. On Saturday, the building was turned into a temporary reception centre and staffed by emergency support services.

Robinson said on Sunday, at the opening of a supportive housing facility in Vancouver, said that she’s frustrated with the issue of homelessness and housing in Maple Ridge.

The province opened a 53-unit supportive housing complex on Royal Crescent last October without council approval.

Robinson added the province has proposed previous projects in Maple Ridge, but none has progressed.

Robinson was among five cabinet ministers who met Maple Ridge Mayor Michael Morden and staff last week in Victoria.

Morden had asked the province for continued commitment to spending $60 million on housing projects in the city. Morden is also seeking more assistance to help with the costs associated with Anita Place Tent City.

Late Monday, Morden said one of the goals of meeting with the ministers was to “hit the reset button” and forge a new relationship with Maple Ridge council.

The city also said a front-end loader has been deployed at the former camp site to remove debris from the fires and lift other heavy items to the main road for disposal.

“Based on the recommendations of the city’s arborist, a number of trees and shrubs have been removed from the St. Anne site due to fire damage or other defects, such as wind damage,” says the city.

The Maple Ridge Fire Department continues to investigate the fires.

On Saturday, Maple Ridge firefighters removed 34 propane tanks, most of which the city believes were brought in after the Feb. 23-24 inspections – which themselves yielded 100 propane tanks.

Two cans of gasoline were also removed.

After the third fire early Friday, local residents were protesting the camp site.

Jamie Seip and Tracy Sutton were parked nearby on 117th Avenue in mid-morning.

Sutton had two signs commenting about drug treatment and homelessness. She had been coming to the area of the homeless camp for eight days and said Maple Ridge has housed more than 700 homeless people.

“Treatment before housing,” she said.

Seip said the city is offering residents beds in shelters every night and also criticized the Alliance Against Displacement.

“These people have their own agenda and it has nothing to do with homeless people,” Seip said.

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