Funding for temporary homeless shelter in Maple Ridge extended

Province also made offer to buy Quality Inn for long-term supportive housing.

  • Mar. 10, 2016 2:00 p.m.

The B.C. government is providing $270,000 to allow the 40-bed temporary shelter in Maple Ridge to remain open until the end of June.

The province has also made an offer to purchase the Quality Inn, on Lougheed Highway, for approximately $5.5 million. The building is to provide 61 units of ong-term supportive housing for those who are homeless or at risk of homelessness, including people currently at the temporary shelter.

The purchase will be finalized in early May and it is to open in June, following renovations, the province announced Thursday.

B.C. Housing will hold a public meeting later this month, prior to the close of the sale, for local residents who have questions about the project.

“We have put in place a long-term housing solution in Maple Ridge that will address the immediate need for new affordable housing for 61 men and women in the community,” said Rich Coleman, Minister of Natural Gas Development and Minister Responsible for Housing.

“This will allow us to get them off the street and connect them with services that can help to stabilize their lives.”

Maple Ridge Mayor Nicole Read said in a release that council believes mental health and addiction services must underpin the operations of the supportive housing complex in order to adequately meet the needs of its future residents.

The province provided more than $5 million last year for subsidized housing and rent supplements to help more than 1,100 households in Maple Ridge.

In 2015, close to 170 homeless people in Maple Ridge were housed through rent supplements and shelter services.

Residents at the temporary shelter were feeling better this week after being told they will have a place to go.

“It’s not that I don’t want to live somewhere. I used to have a house … but the landlord sold it on me,” said one of the residents, named Rick, who’s stayed at the shelter since it opened in October after he left the Cliff Avenue homeless camp.

The temporary shelter opened in the former mattress shop for six months to allow the city to clear the camp that sprung up last spring, next to the Salvation Army Ridge Meadows Ministries.

Rick said he’s been told he will have a place to go.

“’We’ll find housing for everybody’,” he was told.

That makes him feel better, he added.

He said staying in the shelter has helped him.

“It helped me from killing myself.”

He’s also made some friends there who “have their own way of life.”

Read made a short visit to the shelter Tuesday to offer reassurance to people living there.

Read said that it’s “unacceptable” for vulnerable people to feel uncertain about not knowing where they’re going to live.

“I’m here to provide assurance that this is being worked on and that we are expecting to provide some information imminently.”

The temporary shelter, operated by Rain City Housing and funded by B.C. Housing, was only to be open from Oct. 1 to March 31.

Read said the city has collected lots of information about people’s needs gained from helping people in the shelter.

She added that said most people in the community support the opening of the temporary shelter.

“I think a lot of people realize that we’ve had people on our streets for a long period of time who were in deep need.”

People value that those people are being helped, she said.

Another resident, Elisa, has also been at the shelter since it opened in the fall, after losing her place to live 10 days before the shelter opened.

She says the shelter has helped, but that it seems to be a last-minute effort by outreach workers to find residents places to live.

“They told me that they wanted people to know that they’re guaranteed that they will not be sleeping out in the streets, that there will be a roof over there head. So there is another place. I think that’s very important. So we needed that.

“It was a blessing, it really was because sleeping on the street, you’re cold, you’re dirty. No shower, no hot water, you know, you’re looking for food in the garbage.”

People do appreciate having places to live and realize what they have, she added.

Shelter resident Peter Woodrow also came over from the Cliff Avenue homeless camp in the fall.

“I’m trying to find a place to live.”

But Maple Ridge landlords are difficult.

“They don’t want to have anything to do with us.

“They do their best. The workers here are pretty good.”

Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows MLA Doug Bing said the government has increased spending on social housing this year by $10 million.

“It’s a significant increase.”

While Read says housing and mental health is a provincial issue, Bing said it became a city one when council tried to fulfill a 2014 election promise to end homelessness.

“They said that they would attempt to deal with the homelessness issue. That’s where it all originated, really. It became a city issue,” Bing said.

However, he gave some acknowledgement to the city for ending the Cliff Avenue homeless camp peacefully last fall.

He hasn’t visited the temporary shelter in the downtown.

“They haven’t really encouraged people to come and visit them, from my understanding.”

Bing hasn’t been invited and missed the open house when it opened in October.

Read said that every time she talks to residents in the shelter, she learns something.

“I think we need to really work that we’re not making them more vulnerable,” and that they feel supported.

Otherwise, she added, people will disappear and won’t get the help.

“These are people who are dealing with different challenges and we need to wrap the supports around them.”

Maple Ridge council’s entire workshop meeting was cancelled Monday, after Coun. Gordy Robson sought a more public discussion about what happens when the temporary homeless shelter closes March 31.