The Province of B.C. has purchased a site along Royal Crescent in Maple Ridge for temporary modular homes to house people living at the Anita Place Tent City and for others struggling with homelessness.
The site – located at 22534, 22548 and 22556 Royal Crescent – will include 55 modular homes that will be staffed 24 hours, seven days a week, the province announced Monday.
“We cannot pretend homelessness will solve itself, or disappear from sight and sit idly by while people struggle to live for months on end in the snow and the rain,” said Selina Robinson, minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing.
“Our government is taking action to quickly and safely move forward with supportive housing for the people who need it most. They can’t wait any longer,” she added.
“As an emergency service worker in Maple Ridge, I can tell you there are serious health and public safety hazards at the camp, and elsewhere in the community, where people are experiencing homelessness,” said Chris McKee, president of the Maple Ridge Firefighters Union.
“As firefighters, we treat every patient with dignity and respect, no matter their situation. This is in line with the provincial government’s approach in trying to find effective housing solutions that get people into housing as quickly as possible.”
Community members will be consulted on the look of the temporary modular site that is expected to be ready for occumpancy before the fall of this year.
For any future permanent use of the site, B.C. Housing will seek community feedback to suit the broader housing needs of the community. Permanent use of the site will go through the municipal rezoning process.
However, because of “the urgent need and the prolonged tent city situation, the province has bought the site and intends to move ahead with installing temporary structures,” said a release from the province.
“We’re just thrilled that we’ve got some news,” said tent city volunteer Chris Bossley.
“I think it’s perfect. I drive by there every day and I say, ‘Put it there.’”
Jesse Stretch, though, said B.C. Housing hasn’t been clear about what’s being proposed and wondered who would be operating the modular housing project.
The government still plans on constructing an 80-bed supportive housing project and shelter on Burnett Street.
“All of this stuff that they’re putting up, for heavily addicted people, it’s just perpetuating the addiction and the illness, it’s not helping the problem. All it’s going to do is just keep a bunch of really sick people sick. It’s not going to benefit them and it’s not going to benefit the community,” Stretch said.
There’s always talk about wrap-around services, but Stretch said they don’t exist.
Tent city organizer Tracey Scott was happy with the announcement.
“I think it’s awesome. It’s certainly what I’ve been working for.”
But Ivan Drury, with the Alliance Against Displacement, which advocates for tent city residents, said the main concern about the modular facility is how it will be run.
“They’re independent people who don’t want to surrender their rights and autonomy in return for living indoors.”
Coun. Gordy Robson just learned Monday of the project.
“I’m astounded. With all the talk about consultation, it’s zero.”
The city wanted B.C. Housing to first discuss what types of shelters it was proposing before announcing locations, he added.
“They have chosen to ignore us. It sounds like they’re just going to go ahead and do it.”
The community will be consulted on the look of the building, but the province said permanent use of that location by B.C. Housing will go through a city rezoning process.
A request for proposals will be issued to invite experienced non-profit organizations to submit their proposals to operate the Royal Crescent site. The operator will provide residents with daily meals, life-skills training and other supports designed to assist residents in meeting their housing goals – including culturally specific programing.
“There are well over 100 people in Maple Ridge that would be able to access this housing immediately and fill the place twice over,” said Christian Cowley, executive director of CEED Society. “This is an important part of the housing strategy that the community has been asking for over the past few years.”
• An information meeting takes place March 15 at Thomas Haney secondary, from 5 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. dealing with supportive housing and expanded mental health services for people.