Selina Robinson, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, will be joined by Bob D’Eith, MLA for Maple Ridge-Mission, and Lisa Beare, MLA for Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows, as well as project partners for the opening of the new supportive housing for people in need.
It is located at 22534 Royal Cr. in Maple Ridge. Politicians will officially open the project, then tour the 53-unit building, beginning at 11 a.m.
“It’s great to have here. Hopefully, it’s going to get a good number of people from the camp into safe housing,” Mayor Nicole Read said Thursday. “That’s 53 people whose lives will be different tomorrow morning. That’s a big deal.”
Coast Mental Health CEO Darrell Burnham explained his organization will take over the facility on Monday, will do staff training and preparation, and by the end of next week begin populating the rooms. He said it will fill at the rate of about five per day, depending on the circumstances of the residents.
Coast Mental Health also runs Alouette Heights on Brown Avenue, for people who are at-risk of homelessness or living on the streets.
“We’re very excited. It’s going to make a big difference to the community,” Burnham said of the modular housing. “Fifty-three people housed does not end homelessness in Maple Ridge, but it will certainly be noticeable.”
He added that 53 people will have stability in their lives – for most many it will be the first time in years.
All of the units have been spoken for. After an interview process, they were allocated to residents of Anita Place, those staying at the Salvation Army shelter and people who are living on the streets.
Anita Place Tent city opened on 223rd Street on May 2, 2017.
“I’m very excited to hear it’s officially opening,” said Chris Bossley, a council candidate for the Oct. 20 municipal election and who has been a volunteer with Maple Ridge’s homeless community.
While she deferred to Ivan Drury of the Alliance Against Displacement as the spokesperson for the residents of the Anita Place Tent City, Bossley said she knows it is welcomed by camp residents, who she said have been counting down the days to the opening of the modular units like waiting for Christmas.
“On an individual basis, the folks who are moving in are very excited. They are literally doing the ‘10 more sleeps, nine more sleeps …’ They can’t wait to get in there.”
Bossley noted some of the residents of Anita Place have been living in the tent city for almost a year and a half, and many had their possessions damaged by a flash flood last month.
Coun. Gordy Robson said he will reserve judgement on whether the supportive housing will benefit downtown.
“It depends on how it’s run,” he said. “It’s not where it is, but what it is.”
Robson does not want to see it run like Coquitlam’s 30-30 Gordon facility, he said.
“If it’s a place where they can come and go and pillage all night, it’s not going to be successful.”
The emphasis should be on treatment, he added.
“Focus on trying to save their lives, and trying to get them clean.”
Once the Royal Crescent facility is operational, there will always be staff on site to support the residents. They will be provided meals, and services will include mental health and addiction treatment, as well as life skills programming.
Drury has said 200 units are needed to house the city’s homeless, and that the new supportive housing will not allow Anita Place to be cleared.