Hope for Freedom Society manager Mark Foreman is ready to help drive people to church shelters. (Phil Melnychuk/THE NEWS)

Maple Ridge churches asked to help the homeless

Plan underway to offer overnight shelter to street people

Rob Thiessen has seen it work, a plan that helps the homeless by getting them off the street, at least for a short time, by giving them a good meal and a good night’s sleep.

He put such a plan into place in the Tri-Cities between 2007 and 2015, when volunteers and church goers would pick up people at arranged points, offering rides to the churches to get people out of the winter weather, for the night.

Street people would be driven to one of four churches, where they would get some cooked meals and bed down for the night on mats.

Thiessen expects a similar plan to work again, and is drafting up a similar plan for consideration in Maple Ridge, although no decisions have been made. He said Housing Minister Selina Robinson supports the idea. She worked with Thiessen when she was a city councillor in Coquitlam and observed him roll out the first such plan.

“It worked very well and we moved hundreds of people off the street,” said Thiessen.

The community-wide effort involving local churches brought people together, he added.

Both the city council of Maple Ridge and the wider community is split on the issue of how to help the homeless living on streets and in Anita Place Tent City.

So far, a location for supportive housing complex has yet to be found, and no announcements are imminent about any low-cost housing in this city.

Thiessen said his plan to involve churches isn’t a replacement for a supportive housing complex or shelter for those without a place to live.

“It’s a stop gap. It’s not going to deny anybody,” a shelter, he said Thursday.

Thiessen’s currently trying to get five churches in Maple Ridge involved. The congregation could help by cooking and cleanup while overnight shelters would be staffed by trained shelter workers.

Under the plan he hopes to complete by year end, one or more vans would drive through the city in the early evening and offer people rides to the shelters set up in churches.

Once there, they’d get a late meal and a mat on the floor for a night of rest followed by breakfast in the morning, after which they go back outside.

“It certainly breaks down barriers,” he said. By having homeless people mixed with the general population both sides learn.

When the program began in Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam and Port Moody, there was a noticeable decline in camps and people living on the street, he added.

Thiessen runs the faith-based Hope for Freedom recovery home for men in Maple Ridge. One of the tenets is no drugs or alchohol on the premises.

The same principle would follow for his church-shelter program. People might use drugs or drink until the moment they’re picked up, but once on their way or in the shelter, the focus is on peace and quiet and giving people a break from the street scene.

Even by spending a few nights in such shelters, people may find a way out of their current lifestyles.

Thiessen described the shelters as a triage units, where people in greatest need are helped first or people are patched up enough so they can find better ways of living or get off the street.

“It’s a stepping stone,” he said, describing the church-shelter service.

“These are temporary, stop-gap measures,” he said.

Maple Ridge Coun. Craig Speirs likes the idea, although he says a supportive housing complex is still needed in Maple Ridge.

“We need all hands on deck,” to deal with the homelessness in Maple Ridge.

“We need to come together as a community, especially the faith community.”

He said he supported Thiessen’s plan “100 per cent.”

“It worked well in Coquitlam. It’s a good program. I think it worked extremely well.”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here


A plan is underway to help give homeless people at least a temporary break from outside. (THE NEWS/files) A plan is underway to help give homeless people at least a temporary break from outside. (THE NEWS/files) A plan is underway to help give homeless people at least a temporary break from outside. (THE NEWS/files)

Just Posted

8-year-old Maple Ridge actor up for pair of national awards

Bentley Storteboom is nominated for Joey awards in commercial and film acting

Thanksgiving food drive nets new record for Maple Ridge food bank

More than 15,000 pounds, (6,800 kilograms), collected

Riders slow in returning to West Coast Express

TransLink bus ridership at 43 per cent of pre-COVID levels

CRIME STOPPERS: ‘Most wanted’ for the week of Sept. 27

Crime Stoppers’ weekly list based on information provided by police investigators

Racist, homophobic graffiti prominent in downtown Maple Ridge

City councillors up late removing hateful message

105 new COVID-19 cases, 1 death as health officials urge B.C. to remember safety protocols

There are currently 1268 active cases, with 3,337 people under public health monitoring

Another death as COVID-19 outbreak at Delta Hospital climbs to 18 cases

Total of 12 patients and six staff in one unit have tested positive for COVID-19: Fraser Health

B.C. nurses report rise in depression, anxiety, exhaustion due to pandemic

A new UBC study looks into how the COVID-19 response has impacted frontline nurses

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

National child-care plan could help Canada rebound from COVID-induced economic crisis: prof

A $2 billion investment this year could help parents during second wave of pandemic

Search suspended for Indigenous elder last seen mushroom picking in northwest B.C.

Mushroom picker Thomas (Tommy) Dennis has been missing since Sept. 16

16 MLAs retiring from B.C. politics add up to $20M in pensions: Taxpayers Federation

Taxpayers pay $4 for every dollar MLAs contribute to their pensions

‘Bonnie’ and ‘Henry’ among latest litter of service dog puppies

B.C. Alberta Guide Dogs names two pups after provincial health officer

Most Read