Council has agreed to look into three of four issues about homelessness and drug use raised by Coun. Gordy Robson.
He wanted staff to report on the Alouette Heights supportive housing complex, investigate drug-treatment centres, and look at how needles are supplied to the local drug-user population.
“I’m certainly not chasing any bogeymen here or trying to blame anyone about anything,” he said at Tuesday’s council meeting.
He said earlier that he’s concerned that Alouette Heights, a 45-unit complex at Brown Avenue and 222nd Street, isn’t moving people through fast enough to where they can live independently.
When it opened in 2012, Robson added, people were only supposed to stay there a year or two before finding their own place.
However, 16 have been living there since the first year.
Robson said later that if people need long-term care, it should be provided. The public has a right to know the original goals of the complex, he added.
Coun. Speirs, however, disagreed with the examining Alouette Heights, saying the sub-text of the question is to ‘malign’ the Alouette Home Start Society, which operates Alouette Heights.
Speirs doesn’t think the city shouldn’t interfere.
B.C. Housing provides the society with $324,000 yearly to run the building. Residents are considered tenants and pay a portion of rent.
Coun. Bob Masse also supported that Alouette Heights “has been well run. It deals with people who are a high level of need. It does a good job.”
However, the building was intended to provide only interim housing for about 18 months and he agreed the city should try to find out what it can do to help people become independent.
“I don’t see it as a negative thing.”
Staff are already researching Alouette Heights, council heard.
Community development general manager Kelly Swift said that the city is in the process of updating its lease with B.C. Housing (the city leases the land on which Alouette Heights sits) and could change some of the operating principles.
Robson said a staff report could just capsulize for the public how the building is run.
“I think this is a conversation that’s pretty important right now,” said Mayor Nicole Read.
Recently, B.C. Housing has been helping more people move through Alouette Heights by providing more rental supplements.
“B.C. Housing has been actively working with Alouette Home Start to improve the flow at Alouette Heights,” Read said.
Speirs, along with Coun. Kiersten Duncan, opposed Robson’s motion, which passed in a 5-2 vote.
Speirs also was the sole councillor to oppose the request to get staff to look at how to regulate addiction abuse treatment centres in Maple Ridge.
“This is another area where I don’t want us to be asking for control over. None of us are experts on it.”
He’d rather Fraser Health and the bylaws department enforce policies regarding treatment centres.
Robson, though, said some treatment centres are operating without licences and that Surrey has closed several supposed treatment centres.
“I think we need to be aware of what’s going in our community,” said Read.
She supported the motion, saying the city has some control through its zoning powers and that it can ask for accountability in how treatment centres are operated. She added that people can self-discharge from such centres and there have been instances where they’ve been dropped off at the homeless shelter on Lougheed Highway.
“We also have people coming into the city into treatment centres from elsewhere in the province, so some people come into the city from up north.”
Sometimes they’re discharged with no way to get back home, Read added.
All of council supported Robson’s third request, to get staff to report on drug needle provision or harm reduction in Maple Ridge.
Read said the city had been working with Fraser Health last fall on how to improve collection of used needles in Maple Ridge, but staff changes have delayed that.
Coun. Tyler Shymkiw said Fraser Health isn’t responsive enough.
“It’s a horrible experience finding a discarded needle,” said Speirs. “However they get there, there has to awareness raised.”