At a rally on Saturday

At a rally on Saturday

Maple Ridge homeless debate in legislature

City is no further ahead: NDP's David Eby.

The quarrels over Maple Ridge’s homeless population reached the B.C. legislature Monday, with NDP housing critic David Eby saying Maple Ridge is back to where it started.

“The problem for the people of Maple Ridge isn’t the ducking and the weaving of the politicians here. It’s that after a year – since this crisis started – we’re no further ahead,” said the Vancouver MLA.

“There’s no plan for these people who are in this old mattress store,” he added.

“So one year after the crisis began, still no plan for solving it.”

Eby visited the Cliff Avenue homeless camp last summer and was speaking in the legislature after B.C. Housing announced last week that it giving up on a plan to turn the Quality Inn on Lougheed Highway into a 61-unit supportive housing complex.

Eby said that Maple Ridge residents were “outraged” that people in the temporary homeless shelter, at 22239 Lougheed Highway, who had “serious mental health and addiction issues,” were going to be housed in a converted motel, instead of receiving more intensive care.

He cited a recent study that said a quarter of the people who die in supportive housing are not discovered until two days after their deaths and that Maple Ridge residents want people who are vulnerable to be cared for.

But he left his sharpest criticism for Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows MLA Doug Bing, who didn’t support the Quality Inn as a location.

When the public opposed that, Bing, a member of the governing Liberals, said he wasn’t part of the negotiations for selecting the site, Eby said.

He pointed out, though, that Bing said earlier when the temporary shelter opened, he had been “working on the issue for months.”

“Either this government is responsible for supportive housing in Maple Ridge, or it’s not,” Eby said.

Bing said Eby was “playing politics, of course.”

Bing added that the reason people were upset about the proposed supportive housing plan was the location, just blocks from the downtown.

And he reiterated that it’s B.C. Housing’s job to find locations for supportive housing projects.

Last week, Maple Ridge Mayor Nicole Read criticized Bing for opposing the Quality Inn as a location, but not having an alternative. She’s now waiting to hear from B.C. Housing about what its plans are for the 30 people remaining in the temporary shelter in downtown Maple Ridge.

Bing said he expects to be more involved in the future selection of a location for a permanent supportive housing complex, for which the province has promised $15 million.

“I would hope that it wouldn’t happen again, that they would have us more involved in some way, certainly more than the last time,” he said of the city and council.

It’s still up to the city to do the consultation and choose a location, he said.

“Right now, the ball is in the court of the City of Maple Ridge. They have to consider what the citizens want. We have an opportunity for a purpose-built facility. There’s a whole slew of decisions that have to be made.”

Bing said many people don’t want a low-barrier shelter near their homes or businesses.

“We have to consider the effects on the other 80,000 citizens who live Maple Ridge. We just can’t consider just these people, I think,” Bing said.

He’s not sure how much he’ll be involved.

“I think, it’s something they have to deal with. [It was] their thing that they were going to solve the homelessness problem. It kind of brought it to the forefront.

“I don’t think they can just say, ‘Well, it’s a provincial matter.’ “

Maple Ridge council briefly discussed the issue at its Monday workshop. The city needs to come up with a plan to deal with the homeless issue that works for everybody, said Coun. Craig Speirs.

“But you can’t just drop it.”

And it’s important to keep the momentum on dealing with the issue going, he added.

“We need to stay on top of this,” said Coun. Gordy Robson.

Former city councillor Mike Morden is speaking in Victoria Thursday to a group that’s also worried about the effects of low-barrier supportive housing.

Morden said he opposes a shelter environment which permits “indiscriminate drug use. That’s what I oppose.”

Instead, he favours residential treatment programs, in which people get a full range of detox and treatment services.

Morden was part of the opposition that led to the government abandoning the Quality Inn as a location.

“It was a community effort. I don’t think Maple Ridge has ever seen anything like it.”

With the Quality Inn no longer being considered, Morden said it’s now up to Maple Ridge council to come up with both a short-term and long-term plan for the 30 people remaining in the homeless shelter.