A Maple Ridge city councillor has publicly called out the province is not doing its job dealing with homelessness in the city.
Chelsa Meadus got attention in social media for her critical posts on Twitter. One of her Monday tweets featured a photo of a pothole alongside photos showing people sleeping on a floor and of a makeshift homeless camp, with captions saying “This is my fault” over the hole in the road, and “This is not my fault,” over the people sleeping in public.
“Maple Ridge is drowning trying to do prov work with no $,” she said in the tweet.
The left my responsibility as a City Councillor the right is NOT. I’d be happy to accept any funds 4 Maple Ridge the Prov has & do their job, the City will c results, people will b helped, u will look good. MR is drowning trying to do Prov work with no $. pic.twitter.com/XsIRokERFN
— Chelsa Meadus (@ChelsaMeadus) January 25, 2021
On Wednesday she added to the online conversation: “Let me be clear, the province tried to house their way out of an addiction and mental health crisis in Maple Ridge, pure failure. Treatment, integrated drug court, mental health beds. You see somebody who needs a home – I see somebody who desperately needs medical intervention.”
Meadus, who ran for the BC Liberal Party in the last provincial election, said in an interview with Black Press the province should be repaying the city $1.4 million it spent dealing with the Anita Place homeless camp, tackling what she terms a provincial problem. The tent city opened in May 2017 and closed in September 2019.
“I’m not going to let it go,” said Meadus. “$1.4 million to Vancouver is not much. $1.4 million to Maple Ridge is a tax increase. It’s owed to us.”
Meadus said she is halfway through a two-year term, and has not seen the province live up to its promises to help deal with homelessness and addiction. There has only been low barrier housing units created, which have not addressed addiction and crime, she said.
“I don’t think they are successful. I don’t see the wraparound services,” said Meadus.
Maple Ridge-Mission MLA Bob D’Eith, who defeated Meadus in the provincial election, said cities can’t make homelessness is a wholly provincial issue.
“To say council has no role in that… of course they have a role,” he said.
“We have been willing and able to work with the city since 2017.”
D’Eith said an NDP election promise was to add addiction treatment beds in Maple Ridge, which has also been a stated priority of the city in dealing with these issues.
D’Eith said he has been working toward a positive start to the new term of government, and called Meadus’ comments disappointing.
“I look forward to meeting with the city, and I know (Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows MLA) Lisa Beare wants to meet with the city.”
D’Eith said Maple Ridge Mayor Mike Morden has been positively dealing with the provincial government on COVID issues, and “that’s opened doors for us on other issues.”
He said the province had no say in the decision to post security guards around Anita Place or other steps taken by Maple Ridge city hall, and isn’t responsible for the $1.4 million in costs Meadus says are owed the city..
“We could have resolved the camp a lot earlier if we had provided housing,” he said.
There had been a lot of controversy in selecting a location for supportive housing, before the province selected sites on Royal Crescent and Burnett Street.
According to BC Housing, there was significant financial support for the city. Municipalities are responsible for costs incurred on their property. That said, BC Housing does provide financial support on a case-by-case basis. In Maple Ridge, the province spent $1.7 million to help clean up the camp, and help people who were living there. This was for cleanup costs, security, helping people move from the camp, additional shelter costs, outreach and rent supplements, according to the ministry.
In addition, the province has invested roughly $25 million to build the two new supportive housing projects, and continues to provide operating subsidies for these buildings.
In addition, the province provided the city with $220,000 to help with costs of managing the camp in 2017 and 2018.