Before Garibaldi Ridge opened to the public on Tuesday, an offer was extended to Maple Ridge council to tour the new temporary housing facility aimed at residents of the Anita Place camp.
Intake at the 51 unit facility began on Wednesday.
Mayor Mike Morden accepted the offer to tour the new temporary housing facility on Burnett Street, along with three councillors: Judy Dueck; Kiersten Duncan; and Chelsa Meadus.
All of council, except for Duncan, have earlier opposed the facility.
Coun. Dueck said the facility was well put together with opportunity for support, should people choose it.
“I use that word, (choose), because it is not an abstinence-based program which is one of council’s concerns,” said the councillor, adding that she is concernced that residents receive support to get them on to the next stage of their lives and break the cycle of whatever it is that has put them on the streets.
“I’m pleased with the physical structure. I’m still not hearing that there is enough support in place because people can continue to use.
“Life on the street is the same as in there, unless they themselves choose to go a different route,” said Dueck.
Dueck was also assured that a new citizens committee tasked with voicing the concerns of the community would have broad representation.
“In order for it to be successful we need to hear from everyone’s opinion and respect everyon’e opinion in order to make it a success,” said Dueck, adding that council would be given the list of people on the committee.
Coun. Meadus said that although the project started off on a negative tone she did decide to tour the facility.
What she liked about the new facility was the doctor’s office, the 24/7 staff and a conference centre that, Meadus was told, will be opened up to community groups and non-profits.
As Meadus walked through she said she couldn’t help but thinking that she wished they put the same investment into other housing.
“I know 50 units of seniors housing, brand new spanking individual units would also be really welcome in this community,” said Meadus.
She said now that the facility is here, she wants it to be successful.
“We want people to be able to get off the streets and get a positive foot forward. So I am hopeful that will happen,” said Meadus adding that she is still a bit reserved because of the challenges faced in other modular housing settings.
Meadus said she was also happy that the committee would have people on both sides of the issue as well.
Morden, who toured the facility on Wednesday, said he talked with the Coast Mental Health management team about what they could work on to make the facility work, the expectations of being a good neighbour and a “lengthy” talk about what the city is doing and how the community’s social and safety plan will, “form the foundational framework to ensure we do have a full continuum of housing and health services and we do provide for seniors and for low income and disabled.”
He also said they talked about accessible detox treatment and long-term recovery programs.
“Council is committed to a strong working accessible social safety net and equally as important to us are the necessary steps required to ensure our laws are enforced and that our community is safe for everybody.
About the facility itself, Morden said, the jury is always out and he has to see if the resourcing residents are being provided is sufficient.
“We need to make sure that there is no negative impact and that also there is accountability to ensure that this is a temporary transitional arrangement for people to be able to take steps and move forward in their lives.
“And we want to make sure that the options are actually available for them to do that,” he said.
Coun. Ahmed Yousef declined to go on the tour.
“I’ve been completely opposed to the facility since it was proposed. As was the previous council and for me to go and attend was not an option,” he said.
For him, he said, it was more of a day of mourning than anything else.
“That this is our democracy falling to pieces right here. The previous council rejected it. The people of Maple Ridge rejected it. They voted us, who were opposed to it, into office. And yet still the province steamrolls over all of this, no consultation, no community impact studies, no consideration for the residents of Maple Ridge,” said Yousef.
He added that he hopes from the bottom of his heart, that BCHousing will deliver this time.
“I’m not overly optimistic that they will follow through with their word but I am hopeful that maybe this is going to be the one,” he said.
“I’m not going to prejudge it. I’m going to give it time and in six months let’s revisit the facility, see how it looks and how the community around it is feeling. I’m approaching this with great caution and an open mind at the same time.”
Coun. Duncan was glad to see the building open. “I’m thrilled, so excited about it. I think it will benefit the community as a whole,” she said. Staff are focused on ensureing the residents there are successful, she added.