The stage has been set and the goals approved for the homelessness solutions task force in Maple Ridge.
Council approved the group’s plan last week. The plan calls for creating five action teams: one that will speed up access to services for the homeless in Maple Ridge; one that will focus on educating youth about the dangers of drugs: one that will find interim housing for those now on the street; one that will work on enforcing consistent community standards; a fifth team will ensure that social service agencies comply with community standards when they provide their services.
Port Haney resident and advocate John McKenzie is optimistic the task force will actually do something.
“I think we have the right approach to it.”
McKenzie, who’s on Maple Ridge’s social planning advisory committee, also wants to be involved on one of the five teams.
Councillors represented on the task force include Mayor Nicole Read and councillors Bob Masse and Gordy Robson.
The latter have experience with the issue, said McKenzie.
In his previous term on council, Masse raised the issue of crime in the downtown and also worked to get Riverview partly reopened as a mental health care facility.
Robson, former mayor of Maple Ridge, also started the crystal-meth task force several years ago.
Read made ending homelessness a major part of her campaign during November’s municipal election. Creating a task force within 60 days of being elected was one of her promises. The task force was created on Jan. 5.
“One thing that we all heard during the election is that people are frustrated by the issue of homelessness in our community,” she said.
“Many of the people wandering our streets are dealing with mental health and addiction issues and seem to be falling between the cracks of the system that is there to help them.
“It is important that our police, fire department and bylaws team coordinate their work to ensure Maple Ridge is unattractive to the criminal element that feeds off the most vulnerable people.”
McKenzie said so far he likes what the new mayor is doing.
“She knows her stuff and I think she’s a determined woman who’s going to get the job done.”
The Mayor’s Homelessness Solutions Task Force, with only a six-month life span, will report back to council every month.