Louis Bayard

Louis Bayard

Maple Ridge forum on extending homeless shelter

Downtown Maple Ridge Business Improvement Association, along with nearby businesses and property owners to be invited.

Maple Ridge council wants to hear how the folks around the temporary homeless shelter feel about keeping it open another nine months.

So it’s going to hold a forum and invite the Downtown Maple Ridge Business Improvement Association, along with nearby businesses and property owners, to give their thoughts before deciding on B.C. Housing’s request.

B.C. Housing wants the shelter at 22239 Lougheed Hwy. to remain open at least another nine months, to give it time to build an interim, mobile-home type shelter somewhere in Maple Ridge.

The interim, mobile-home type shelter would be open for at least three years, while a permanent supportive housing complex is built by B.C. Housing at a cost of at least $15 million.

The temporary homeless shelter opened last October to allow the Cliff Avenue camp to be cleared. It was supposed to close March 31, but that date was extended to June 30.

Twenty-six people still live there.

“I think it’s really important that we actually hear from people around the shelter,” Mayor Nicole Read said at council Monday.

Coun. Gordy Robson backed the idea, providing it was understood the city hadn’t made any decisions on adding more shelters in the community.

“There is no decision yet about whether we should have one shelter or two shelters, no shelters or 15 shelters. My personal agenda is we don’t want two shelters in the community,” he said.

The Salvation Army Ridge Meadows Ministries, by 222nd Street, operates a 25-bed emergency shelter.

It’s important that the city hear what nearby residents say, said Coun. Corisa Bell, adding she’s not supporting the extension of the shelter by doing so.

Coun. Kiersten Duncan asked about having a community advisory committee to allow people to air their concerns about the temporary shelter.

City social planning analyst Shawn Matthewson said such a committee was formed when the temporary homeless shelter first opened in October. The committee includes city staff, police, RainCity Housing, along with one nearby resident and three local business operators.

Meetings were held monthly until February, but the resident and the business owners never showed up.

The forum should take place within a week so that council can decide by month’s end if it wants to extend the shelter.

Louis Bayard, who operates Louis Leather motorcycle accessory store by the temporary shelter, plans on attending the forum and said the security cameras and better lighting installed in the back alley when the shelter opened have helped.

“I’m fine with that,” he said of the shelter remaining open another nine months. Finding a new location, converting a new location all over again would be costly, he added.

But he wants the volunteer caretaker who he’s allowed to park on his premises to be able to stay, as well.

The caretaker has parked his recreational vehicle on the property as a base to allow him to keep an eye on the alleyway behind the shelter, and to clean up needles and refuse.

However, Bayard and his landlord have just been given $500 fines from the city for allowing the RV to remain there.

“I think it [the recreational vehicle] should be allowed to stay as long as the shelter is there. We feel more comfortable having him there.”

At the special meeting last week, when B.C. Housing made its request to extend the shelter, Darren Wellander, with Mission Ridge Auto Sales, next door to the shelter, told council that RainCity Housing has contacted him only twice since it opened and that he has to contact the shelter when he has concerns.

He said the problems from the shelter are now worse than they have ever been, with incidents daily outside on the sidewalk they share.

“It’s never-ending,” he said.