Seniors and veterans living in two Royal Canadian Legion Branch No. 88 housing projects on Burnett Street are uneasy about the supportive housing complex and shelter that could become their new neighbour.
The Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing announced this month that it wants to construct a 40-bed supportive housing complex, with another 40 emergency shelter beds, at 11749 Burnett St.
The Salvation Army Ridge Meadows Ministries would operate the building.
If constructed, the complex would be next to the Earl Haig cottages, as well as Legion House.
Earl Haig, named after First World War Field Marshall Earl Haig, is an independent living complex, of 22 one-bedroom cottages. Legion House next door offers another 19 independent living units for seniors and veterans.
“And to have this on the front door is not a good thing,” said Jim McDonald, chair of the Earl Haig Society, which runs the building.
He plans on making a presentation to council when the rezoning application for the shelter goes to Maple Ridge council.
No date has been set for that.
“It concerns us. If this was even a treatment centre, high-barrier, we might be a little more comfortable with it. Just to provide a a shelter, a low-barrier shelter, is going to be a problem, I think.”
But he hasn’t seen any plans yet, he added.
He wants at least there to be a neighbourhood liasion committee so residents can have input into how the building is operated.
“To have this sitting between two major schools, shopping centres, seniors complexes – there’s got to be some direction to it.”
McDonald supports having the Salvation Army operate the building and questions why residents in tent city are ruling out the Salvation Army.
“For them to set the parameters on who’s going to do things. I just don’t understand.”
Three rallies have already taken place opposing the shelter, while a large delegation also addressed council on the issue at its Jan. 16 meeting.
Jesse Stretch, who used to be on the Liberal MLAs citizen’s advisory committee that recommended possible locations for a previous shelter, said it’s too early to tell exactly what kind of shelter is being proposed for Burnett Street.
He’s also glad the Salvation Army will operate the shelter, but maintains a low-barrier shelter doesn’t work.
“It hasn’t worked in the Downtown Eastside for 20 years. It hasn’t worked in Maple Ridge since they started doing that.”
He maintains no-barrier shelters perpetuate people’s problems, while others say that connecting people with services, by getting people into shelters, is the way to help people whether they’re using drugs or not.
Ahmed Yousef, who previously addressed council on Anita Place Tent City, spoke at a rally Saturday in Maple Ridge and considered it a success, saying there was healthy discussion.
“Because we’re seeing a lot of people are for the same thing whereby they’re talking about actual treatment, rather than a simple shelter model,” he added.
“We’re saying that we, as a community, can do better for our drug addicted and homeless, without of course, having the inpact on the neighbourhood.”