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Moving back to Sally Ann

Mayor Nicole Read said if another homeless camp develops, it doesn’t matter who benefits politically.
Rob Thiessen

Moving people from the temporary homeless shelter across Lougheed Highway to the Salvation Army could bring the city’s homelessness issue back to where it started two years ago.

“They’re moving people from shelter to shelter,” Mayor Nicole Read said of the provincial government.

And some people don’t like or fit in with the services offered at the Salvation Army Ridge Meadows Ministries, even though it’s now low-barrier, so may just not go, she added.

“We’re going to get a camp. That’s what’s going to happen, I believe, from this decision-making”

Read said if another homeless camp develops, it doesn’t matter who benefits politically. “At the end of the day, we have a bunch of people with severe needs who are not being attended to.”

Thirty of the 40 people who’ve been sleeping on cots in the temporary homeless shelter for 16 months will be offered mats on the floor of the Salvation Army Ridge Meadows Ministries cafeteria, MLAs said Friday.

It’s hoped that the remaining 10 will be found homes within or outside Maple Ridge, with the help of outreach workers or the new intensive case management team.

Doug Bing (Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows) and Marc Dalton (Maple Ridge-Mission) announced the interim step after taking over the consultation process for a proposed $15-million homeless shelter and supportive complex in Maple Ridge.

The pair held a public meeting on the issue on Jan. 31, drawing 600 people to Maple Ridge Baptist Church.

“Some of the things we’ve heard was no to low-barrier,” said Bing.

“They want to help people, but enabling was not a good idea.”

Dalton reiterated that the steps announced are just interim measures until a location is found for a permanent housing complex.

“This is a long-term process.”

He’s had more public feedback about a homeless shelter in Maple Ridge than any other issue.

“It isn’t just NIMBYism. This has been something that’s been a real concern to the entire community.”

In addition to offering instituting a curfew March 1 at the temporary homeless shelter and closing it as intended on March 31, the MLAs said:

• the creation of a Fraser Health-B.C. Housing intensive care management team will help the residents of the temporary homeless shelter with mental health or addiction issues;

• $50,000 will be given to the Hope for Freedom Society to pay for a new kitchen for the abstinence-based program that helps addicts;

• up to 40 rental subsidies, valued at $252,000, will be offered people to help them find housing while being supported;

• $1 million will go to the Iron Horse Youth Safe House;

• Coast Mental Health will take over operation of Alouette Heights, the new supportive housing building at 222nd Street and Brown Avenue, after Alouette Home Start Society backed out of the process.

The question of finding a location for the $15-million homeless shelter and supportive housing complex has dogged both city council and MLAs.

Bing and Dalton both rejected last year the Quality Inn as an interim shelter and 21375 Lougheed Hwy. as a location for a permanent shelter. City council then passed the consultation process over to the two MLAs.

However, now a citizens’ committee chosen by the MLAs will be involved to help find a suitable location.

According to the province, the $15 million is still available.

Council continues to be split on the issue. Coun. Kiersten Duncan said the province is just moving clients from the temporary shelter to the Salvation Army.

“They’re not all being housed. It’s not clear. They need to make it clear what’s really happening, and they’re not,” she added. “We’re playing politics with people. It’s disgusting.”

She also objected to a curfew that will be set imposed on the temporary homeless shelter, operated by Rain City Housing, as of March 1. She said council rejected that earlier upon advice from RCMP and others, because it stigmatized the clients of the shelter as criminals.

“We know for a fact, from the RCMP, that that is not correct.”

The MLAs haven’t kept council up to date on the issue, she added.

Coun. Gordy Robson, though, said the announcements were a start and he favours only one shelter in Maple Ridge.

He also liked having a curfew in place, saying most Metro Vancouver shelters have them. But some of the residents in the temporary homeless shelter could be challenging to house in the Salvation Army, he added.

Darrell Pilgrim, executive-director at the Salvation Army, said the temporary beds will have a curfew, as does all the entire Salvation Army building. While people can stay inside the Salvation Army’s 30-bed emergency shelter all day, people using the temporary mats can’t get inside between the hours of 1 p.m. to 8 p.m.

“As per our good-neighbour agreement, we will continue to monitor shelter client activity around and near our facility,” Pilgrim said by e-mail.

Dalton said it isn’t a stop-gap measure to get past this May’s provincial election without taking responsibility for selecting the site for a permanent shelter.

“We’ve been on working on this, honestly, since Cliff Avenue.”

B.C. Housing will be meeting with RainCity, the RCMP and the City of Maple Ridge to discuss implementation of the shelter closure plan.

Maple Ridge council, in 2015, had asked the provincial government to cut the Salvation Army’s $1-million a year it gets to run the emergency shelter.

“When we were dealing with the camp, a lot of those people had been in and out … of the [Salvation Army] shelter to no positive effect,” Read said.

She added, Maple Ridge council hasn’t been kept up to date on the issue.

“If they get a camp, then the provincial government better be prepared to deal with it.”

Eighteen of the 40 people at the temporary homeless shelter were from the original tent camp on Cliff Avenue.