Maple Ridge shelter location off until after May 9 B.C. vote

MLAs say they can’t advocate on issue while campaign is on because they’re no longer MLAs

The location for a homeless shelter and supportive housing in Maple Ridge will be decided after the election, Liberal MLAs said Wednesday.

It will be better for the community to resume the discussion after the May 9 B.C. election, said Marc Dalton, Liberal MLA for Maple Ridge-Mission.

Dalton and Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows MLA Doug Bing have appointed a citizens’ committee to advise on a location for a shelter and housing complex, following Premier Christy Clark’s decision last September to give the final decision over to the MLAs.

Whatever that committee recommends will have “great weight” with the MLAs, when making the proposal, Dalton said.

B.C. Housing has committed $15 million for a new building for that purpose, once Maple Ridge can agree on a location.

Bing and Dalton held a public forum on the issue in late January in order to gauge public opinion.

But during the actual election itself, the MLAs become candidates, rather than government members.

“We’re not in a capacity, at this point [to deal with the issue],” Dalton said.

“We’re stepping down as MLAs.

“We can’t really dig in on this issue and have the conversation with the community during the election.”

Two proposals for shelters, one at the Quality Inn on Lougheed Highway and another a few blocks west, were both rejected by the MLAs following public outcry.

In February, however, the MLAs announced that 30 of the 40 people at the temporary homeless shelter will be moved to the Salvation Army Ridge Meadows Ministries. That will also be temporary shelter, where people sleep in dormitory conditions, to close by June.

The MLAs also announced the formation of an intensive case management team to help people access services and find homes.

“We’ve already made lots of decisions on this,” Dalton said.

He said the MLAs didn’t say they would have a location chosen before the election.

“The community is very supportive of Doug and my response to the Quality Inn. They did not want that location. I feel totally confident in that decision.”

Dalton said that there’s been a “lack of collaboration” from Maple Ridge Mayor Nicole Read.

“She’s been very belligerent to us, but we’ve just been responding to the community.”

Dalton said he wants the Salvation Army to run a new shelter.

Bing said waiting until after the election “would be prudent.”

Read said two possible locations for a shelter now being considered by the committee were previously rejected by B.C. Housing because they’re too far from services and the downtown.

But if the MLAs choose either location, “Why have experts,” Read asked.

Read said earlier that the MLAs would stall any decision on a location until after the election.

“How do you put a lot of weight into a decision by an arbitrarily appointed committee?”

Committee chairman Christine Bickle said that a location hasn’t been chosen. The group wants to make recommendations about how the complex will operate, then look at potential locations. But she said’d like to able to choose a location before the election, then pass it over to the politicians.

“Please, do what you will with it. We’d love to be able to do that.”

Once the election is underway the committee is “flying blind,” Bickle added, and she’s not sure if the committee can release that location during the campaign.

Whatever decision is made, B.C. Housing and the City of Maple Ridge will also have input.

“We’re just trying to come up with the right thing for our community.”