The only way to have a shelter built in Maple Ridge is for the province to proceed without public consultation, says homeless advocate Ivan Drury.
“You can’t consult with people who are ideologically driven to oppose anything …” said Drury, spokesperson for Anita Place Tent City in Maple Ridge, and the Alliance Against Displacement.
“It has been demonstrated there is a hostile anti-poor, anti-homeless agenda in Maple Ridge.”
On Wednesday, B.C. Housing announced it will hold a drop-in information session about the proposed supportive housing, affordable housing and mental health and addictions supports in Maple Ridge.
It will be held on Monday, Jan. 29, from 4-8 p.m. at Haney Presbyterian Church (11858-216 St.). Expert staff from B.C. Housing, Fraser Health, the Salvation Army and Maple Ridge’s intensive case management team will be answering questions.
At issue is the recently announced shelter at 11749 and 11761 Burnett Street. It is to contain 40 units of supportive housing and 40 emergency shelter beds, and be run by the Salvation Army Ridge Meadows Ministries, which is moving from its existing downtown facility to make room for improvements to the Haney Bypass.
Drury said the government’s proposed new building is too small.
“Forty [supportive housing units] is not going to close the camp,” he said.
The province has also promised modular housing, but is still looking for another site, as well as provide new affordable rental housing for seniors and low-income families at 21375 Lougheed Hwy.
Drury said the government’s approach is a relief, which he summarized as “buy the land, declare the project, and have information sessions.”
He knows the new supportive housing location will be hotly contested, but said the government has to “weather that storm, and show leadership.”
But Jesse Stretch, who served on a citizens advisory committee that looked for a new shelter location, said the government’s lack of consultation on a site has already created hard feelings.
“The biggest problem the NDP is going to face here – that the government is going to face – is that they’ve alienated the community.”
The advisory committee had a lot of expertise, including people who had worked with B.C. Housing, said Stretch.
B.C. Housing gave the committee a list of sites to consider, and the Burnett site was not on it, Stretch added.
The site the committee chose was sold shortly after the provincial election, but he said there were other options the committee liked.
“There are other sites that were far more suitable on the list, and the site they bought wasn’t even on the list.”
That committee had been appointed by then-Liberal MLAs Marc Dalton and Doug Bing, but Stretch doesn’t think that should have impacted the new government’s decision making.
“B.C. Housing is still the same entity, right.”
Personally, he doesn’t think people should take a stand against the Burnett St. site until they attend the information session and hear the plan.
“You’ve got to hear what they have to say first,” said Stretch. “If they want the same low-barrier model that RainCity had here, I don’t support that. It won’t help at all.”
Determining what model is a goal for Eric Boland, who has helped organize protest rallies against the Burnett Street shelter, and has a petition with well over 1,000 names on hard copy and almost 1,400 online.
“I’m just going to go and ask questions,” Boland said of the sessions. “I’m against low-barrier shelters and enabling. I don’t hate the homeless. I’m willing to help people if they want to be helped.”
He wants to know why was the city not consulted, especially people in the area.
And, he will ask whether B.C. Housing is willing to consider other locations recommended by the advisory committee.
MLAs Bob D’Eith (Maple Ridge-Mission) and Lisa Beare (Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows) are also planning to attend.
“I was very pleased that B.C. Housing scheduled this information session. Lisa, Minister Robinson and I all agreed that it was important to ensure that B.C. Housing would provide this opportunity for people to get information about the services and housing and give feedback, in addition to opportunities they have through the regular municipal rezoning process,” said D’Eith.
“Lisa and I are looking forward to attending the session to learn more about the proposal and speak to people to hear their feedback.”