(THE NEWS/files)                                Fifty-three modular units were opened in mid October.

(THE NEWS/files) Fifty-three modular units were opened in mid October.

Maple Ridge’s modular homes nice, but not for her

Resident looking to escape drug culture

One of the 53 people who is now living in the temporary modular homes on Royal Crescent says the facility is doing what it’s intended to do, get people off the streets of Maple Ridge and on the way to some kind of recovery.

But she believes at least one change is needed.

The resident, who’s in her early 20s and wishes to remain anonymous, got a modular room after initially applying to live in Alouette Heights Supportive Housing. Both are run by Coast Mental Health.

She is dealing with mental health issues and became homeless after police showed up one night on a health and wellness check at her previous apartment. Soon after that visit, she was evicted and had no other place to go.

Now, after spending a few weeks at the modular home complex, she’s looking for a new place.

“I think that it’s run fairly well,” the resident said.

“It’s a good place to be. It’s a good stepping stone.”

She said that every occupant is assigned a “key” worker who’s responsible for particular residents. Staff are on site 24 hours a day and the rooms are nice, and she also likes the idea of each resident being allowed to bring in only 14 overnight guests within a year.

The staff are needed around the clock, or the facility would turn into a “gong show” she adds.

Her key worker helped her develop plans “to prevent stuff happening in the future.

“They help with jobs, housing, treatment, detox, etc., anything you can think of, any goals a person has, they will help with.”

There’s also a safe-injection room, mainly for fentanyl, where people can inject in relative safety, surrounded by others in case they overdose.

But she disagrees with residents being allowed to smoke in their rooms. People are doing that as a means of ingesting crystal meth or fentanyl, she added, with the result that smoke is wafting throughout the building, putting users at risk of overdosing alone inside those rooms.

Instead, “If you’re going to use, you should use in the safe-injection room, with fentanyl anyways. That’s my biggest concern.”

The resident, though, says the complex is performing a valuable service, that it’s not easy for people to stop using if they don’t have housing. People are using crystal meth so they can stay up all night, because they don’t know where they’re going to spend the night.

Nevertheless, she wants to move out because of the prevalence of drugs on the site. She hasn’t seen prostitution taking place and said, as far as she knows, that’s not happening.

She’s not a regular drug user, but fell into drug use briefly before she moved into the modular housing. She’s now clean again and has never had a long-term history of drug use.

“I think it’s good for a lot of people and I think they do a lot of great things,” she said of the modular units. “But I think if I want to stay clean and have a positive life, this isn’t the place for me. So it’s a good place if you want to get clean – but it’s not a good place if you want to stay clean.”

She wants to move out within six months and is regularly checking Craigslist for a place of her own. A $400 a month rental supplement available from mental health means she can afford rent of about $1,000 a month.

However, “I can’t find anything for $1,000 or less. It’s always $1,200 or $1,300.”

She supports the concept of low-barrier housing, which “is a really good thing for a lot of people. If you want to get off the street, that’s the number one step.”

But what’s also needed is housing for people who have since kicked drugs and are now clean, she added.

Susan Hancock of Coast Mental Health reaffirmed the organization’s approach, saying by e-mail that it supports the recovery of people with mental illness.

“For us, this means bringing people inside so they can access the health care and supports needed for their recovery.”

She added that harm-reduction measures are practised and encouraged by staff and confirmed there is a safe-use room on site, and that residents are warned not to use inside their rooms.

“We also continue to remind tenants struggling with addictions of the dangers of using in isolation.”