Maple Ridge Mayor Nicole Read doesn’t think it was all for nothing, but is keen to hear what plans are in place for the people left at the RainCity shelter and will learn more at a presentation by B.C. Housing and Fraser Health on May 30 in council chambers.
What comes out of that meeting may affect how people perceive the city’s effort in grappling with the problem of homelessness, said Read.
The temporary shelter is to close at the end of June. It has about 40 clients and, the mayor said, is still turning people away.
“I’m not sure where these people are going,” Read added. “I have deep concerns about the failures we’re seeing.”
But there have been numerous successes, she points out.
Council’s efforts have secured provincial funding of $15 million for a purpose-built supportive housing facility.
Coun. Bob Masse said 90 people have been housed by Alouette Addictions outreach workers since June 2015, and that level of success was likely made possible by bringing homeless people together under one roof.
“It’s a good thing, but nonetheless we still have a lot of homeless people,” said Masse. “It’s not to say we’ve got it beat.”
He noted that 10 of those 90 have since fallen out of housing.
Coun. Gordy Robson said council and B.C. Housing have scrutinized the effectiveness of the Salvation Army Ridge Meadows Ministries shelter, and Alouette Heights operation. He said Alouette Heights should be held to a renewed dedication to ensuring its residents are following a drug-free life plan.
“Otherwise, it’s just another apartment block.”
He said the changes to a low-barrier model at the Salvation Army shelter will make it of more use to the homeless. He expects the Caring Place will have to relax rules prohibiting drug use there, and allow people to come and go during the evening.
“I’m happier to have one shelter,” Robson added. “It will take some of the pressure off that area of town.”
The Salvation Army has not yet provided details of its new low-barrier rules, but a spokesperson said they should be ready by next week.
Whether the new low-barrier rules will be in all of its shelters depends on the needs of the communities, said Deb Lowell, with the Salvation Army’s B.C. divisional headquarters.
The Salvation Army shelter in Maple Ridge was already moving toward some low-barrier initiatives, said Darrell Pilgrim, executive director.
“At the end of the day, I believe this is going to be a great benefit to our community,” he added.
Read said, in all, since the clearing of the Cliff Avenue homeless camp last fall, close to 100 people have been housed through the city’s efforts.
That includes eight women, who were offered rental supplements through Atira Women’s Resource Society.
Janice Abbott, CEO of Atira, said five of them have stayed in Maple Ridge, while the others have moved to Surrey or other cities. All of them are in regular apartments.
“There’s a screening process, because it’s more independent living,” she added.
If the clients cause problems, they could face eviction.
“The landlord will treat them like any other tenant.”
Atira’s outreach workers have followed up with them, starting with weekly visits, or more frequently for some clients. The outreach workers also connect them to other agencies and supports in their communities.
“The women who have been housed have thrived independently.”
Read said housing close to 100 people is a success, and she knows that some of those people had been in and out of the Salvation Army shelter, and living street-entrenched lifestyles for significant periods of time.
But she is not happy that the temporary shelter is still “warehousing people” nine months later.
“That, in my opinion, shows the failures within the system.”
But there have been successes, she said.
“We’ve made great headway, and we’ve got the attention of senior government – and that was necessary,” said Read.
“I’m proud of the work we’ve done over the past year.”