A neighbour took a photo of a police guns-drawn incident at the modular housing units in December 2019. (Special to The News)

A neighbour took a photo of a police guns-drawn incident at the modular housing units in December 2019. (Special to The News)

Neighbours say The Mods have worn out welcome in Maple Ridge neighbourhood

This month marks three years for temporary housing for homeless on Royal Crescent

This month, it has been three years since the Royal Crescent modular housing facility opened, allowing housing for 53 homeless people, and the closure of the Anita Place homeless camp.

Neighbours say the shelter in the 22500 block of Royal Crescent was supposed to be a temporary solution, for up to three years, and has outstayed its welcome in the neighbourhood.

City council has not been engaged in a public dialogue about changing the current situation. There were years of political discourse and public protest before the province unilaterally chose to put homeless housing on Royal Crescent and Burnett Street.

Stephanie Stoddard runs a nearby daycare that has been plagued by people passed out or using drugs in her doorways or parking stalls. It’s a significant problem for parents dropping off their toddlers. It’s hurting her business, and it’s been unceasing over the past three years.

“Some are great and move along, but some get verbal. Someone wrote ‘F You’ on my daycare,” she said.

“It affects the well-being of my staff. It does hinder me from getting new clients as well,” Stoddard said. “It was only supposed to be temporary.”

Once, a client mom ran inside the daycare, realized she had forgotten her purse in her car, and returned to find her window smashed and the purse missing.

There is a constant problem of needles, baggies, tinfoil and other drug paraphernalia left around her business.

Stoddard said she has complained about these issues to the city multiple times, and has had a personal visit from Mayor Mike Morden. She has been told to call 9-1-1, and promised that police patrols would be increased. The problem has not diminished, but she said the response from police has.

There is already a regular response by emergency responders directly to “The Mods,” as they are called. In December 2019, there was a guns-drawn police incident, and multiple arrests made.

When her lease on the building runs out in April, Stoddard may be forced to find a new location.

She worries about the image of the city, as a small city that has a Salvation Army shelter, plus three other homeless housing facilities in its downtown core.

“Maple Ridge seems to be the province’s dumping ground for all this housing,” she said.

The site was promised to be redeveloped for other social housing, and Stoddard said that is now overdue.

“Affordable seniors housing is something we really need here – seniors should be a priority.”

READ ALSO: Look inside Maple Ridge’s new homeless housing

Brenda Mallinson is a neighbour in a nearby apartment building who is bothered by open drug use and unabashed drug dealing that goes on at The Mods and around it.

“They’re out there doing drugs in the front yard,” she said. “It’s so out of control, it’s crazy.”

Homeless people frequent the underground parking lot at her building, and it’s often littered with drug paraphernalia and feces. There are thefts from vehicles.

She recalled seeing a couple bundled up in sleeping bags in the parking lot, heating narcotics on tinfoil. She asked them to leave, and they ignored her. She said police are often slow to respond to such complaints, and city hall has no answers.

“We’re told to phone the police – the police don’t come anymore,” said Mallinson.

When people protesting the homeless shelter in their neighbourhood camped at the site, trying to stop the development, police came and arrested three people, she pointed out.

READ ALSO: RCMP arrest protesters at modular housing site

Mallinson said some of her neighbours have either sold or listed their units, and she is considering doing the same.

“I might be forced to sell. I don’t feel happy about it,” she said. “It’s always been a rougher part of town, but it was manageable.”

Ed Lineham is a neighbour who originally opposed The Mods, and has been a critic of how it is running.

He said staff have no control over the residents once they are outside the building, which leads to people on or near the property smoking drugs, injecting themselves, dealing drugs, yelling and “acting out.”

“This used to be a quiet idyllic neighbourhood. Allowing shelters like this to be placed where they cause this type of disruption to a neighbourhood is a travesty,” he wrote the news.

“I am anything but a NIMBY. The people in these shelters need help. However, the obvious lack of supervision and control exercised in a facility like this is not helping these people or the neighbourhood. It only enables them.”

READ ALSO: Letter: ‘My life on Royal Crescent’

Darrell Burnham is the CEO of Coast Mental Health, which operates the facility on behalf of BC Housing. He said talks are underway to close the facility, but it will need to be replaced with more permanent social housing.

He said Garibaldi Ridge on Burnett Street, which his agency also operates, is “far superior” housing for its residents.

“Those units (Royal Crescent) are 20 years old, they’ve already been in work camps in B.C.” said Burnham.

He said the portable trailers are a preferable solution to housing people in Single Room Occupancy (SROs) units which are popular in other cities, and are certainly better than tents. However, they were hastily dropped on the site as part of the provincial government’s 2018 rapid response to homelessness. Burnham said a purpose-built facility would be better.

There will be a need to be a new site developed, preferably in Maple Ridge, and the clients moved there, he said.

City hall offered a brief statement about the situation from outgoing CAO Al Horsman.

“When BC Housing opened the Royal Crescent facility, they noted their intent that it was to be a temporary solution for people experiencing homelessness,” he said. “The city continues to have discussions with BC Housing on investments to address the impacts of poverty, addiction and mental health that are being experienced in all communities in BC. The hope is that decisions on new facilities in the community will be a collaboration with senior government that is consistent with the city’s Community Social Safety Initiative.”

Have a story tip? Email: ncorbett@mapleridgenews.com

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