The Alliance Against Displacement and residents of Anita Place Tent City aren’t as enthusiastic as many about Thursday’s announcement of a new supportive housing and shelter complex on Burnett Street.
The announcement is just an explanation about the construction of the new Salvation Army Ridge Meadows Ministries building, tent city residents said.
Currently, the Salvation Army already operates a 30-bed emergency shelter, with another 30 emergency mats, at the corner of Lougheed Highway and 222nd Street.
In release issued Friday, tent city residents said that the Salvation Army staff are not trained to deal with harm reduction supplies or Narcan.
“Salvation Army doesn’t understand harm reduction and they should not be running services in this community.”
The announcement is just reflecting the priorities of the previous Liberal government, not the housing and health needs of homeless people themselves, said residents.
“The NDP announcement of the Salvation Army as housing operator grovels to pressure from anti-harm reduction, poor-bashing, Ridgeilante bigots, rather than the health needs of low-income drug users,” said the release.
It said that supportive housing is a “failed model,” because tenants give up their tenancy rights, privacy, and autonomy in exchange for a roof over their heads.
“The problem with supportive housing is that you’re locked in, staff controls your guests, cameras watch you 24/7 and send surveillance to the police. We’re old enough, mature enough to care for ourselves. It’s the rent we’re looking for, not babysitters in supportive housing. It’s not going to work for us,” said tent city resident David Cudmore.
The announcement means that the NDP government is continuing the B.C. Liberal’s housing policy of “public relation spins that re-announce previous announcements to make it seem like they are doing something, without spending the money needed to actually end homelessness,” Alliance Against Displacement spokesman Ivan Drury said in the same release.
“We made our needs clear when we met with B.C. Housing: to end this camp, we need 200 units of modular housing opened immediately and 200 units of permanent social housing – not supportive housing,” added tent city organizer Tracy Scott.
However, the release issued Thursday by Municipal Affairs and Housing, said that the government is also trying to find a location for temporary modular housing as soon as possible, to provide a place for the tent city residents.
That would involve setting up modular units, or shipping trailer units, that are self-contained suites. Then, more permanent housing would be built and rented out.
“Further details will be shared with the public, once a site is confirmed,” said the housing ministry.
Another new affordable rental project, costing $15 million, is also underway on the city-owned lot at 21375 Lougheed Hwy. That was one of the previously proposed sites for supportive housing complex but was abandoned after public outcry in 2016.
B.C. Housing will hold a public information meeting at the end of the month to explain the supportive housing project at 11749 and 11761 Burnett Street.
Housing Minister Selina Robinson said Maple Ridge has struggled because the previous government didn’t do a good job communicating the value of social housing projects.
“When people have more information about what it means to have space in your community for people who need extra support – we’re all better for it.”
Robinson said B.C. Housing has been working on Maple Ridge housing needs since September.
“We recognize there’s a whole range of housing that needs to happen.”
B.C. Housing is working as hard as it can to find a location for modular housing, she added.
“We haven’t given up. We are not giving up. It’s a daily conversation I have with staff about what’s going on in Maple Ridge.”
Robinson said that more than 70 per cent of the people who stayed at 3030 Gordon shelter in Coquitlam now have their own places to live.