Ahmed Yousef and a group called the Burnett Street Neighbours are collecting names for a petition opposing the homeless shelter on their street at the Ridge Meadows Home Show. (Neil Corbett/THE NEWS)

Homeless shelter opponents collecting signatures at Ridge Meadows Home Show

‘It’s a home show, and they’re anti-home,’ says Coun. Speirs

A group called the Burnett Street Neighbours, who have a petition opposing a homeless shelter on their namesake Maple Ridge street, have a booth at the Ridge Meadows Home Show this weekend collecting signatures.

Its goal is to have 10,000 names on a petition, and present it to Maple Ridge city council as a delegation on Tuesday night.

The group is also handing out a leaflet, asking for support, as B.C. Housing begins a rezoning process for the 80-bed shelter and supportive housing complex at 11749 Burnett St.

“It is critical that we have a real show of strength at the upcoming council meeting Tuesday, May 8,” said the single sheet of paper.

Maple Ridge Coun. Craig Speirs said the booth was out of place at the Home Show.

“It’s the Home Show, and they’re anti-home,” said Speirs, standing at the city booth across from the Burnett Street Neighbours booth.

“We are having a community conversation now about this, and for the last two and a half years we’ve been talking about this,” he added.

“The bottom line is we need to put roofs over the homeless’ heads. And I don’t know how this helps. It doesn’t, in fact.”

He said those opposing the shelter location should come up with solutions that will work.

“They keep quoting some dodgy committee that was set up by the previous MLAs that suggests we can just shovel them out to our industrial area. Well, it’s a residential use, and that’s just not appropriate,” Speirs said.

“People who are hurt and are in a difficult situation need to be brought into the heart of the community. You can’t push people away who are injured. You have to bring them in and help heal them.”

Ahmed Yousef, speaking for the group and who is considering running for Maple Ridge council, said it was received by the public.

“Our cause is simply to have our voices heard, and to have that proper consultation process the provincial government is meant to have,” said Yousef.

He said the group will represent thousands of voices as they speak to council, and were well over the 7,000 mark as they entered the weekend. Only people from Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows will be permitted to sign the petition, he said.

He is hearing that people across the city oppose the low-barrier model.

“It’s not so much about location, it’s about the model that’s being presented,” he said. “There’s no plan for treatment, there’s no health care being provided.”

Yousef said homeless people need help “rather than simply warehousing them, getting them into a shelter somewhere, where they are going to continue in the same lifestyle.”

B.C. Housing will seek rezoning for its proposed Burnett Street complex and recently filed an application with the city.

Former Liberal MLA Doug Bing, who helped strike up the former committee, was at a B.C. Liberal Party booth next to the Burnett Street Neighbours, and said the members should be heard.

“We have to get the community involved here, and we have to get buy-in,” said Bing. “B.C. Housing just can’t come and plunk the infrastructure in the community without the support of the community.”

He said his government had taken a different approach, and got a recommendation from a community group.

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