‘No quick fix for homelessness’

MLA Doug Bing thinks allowing Cliff camp made problems worse

Maple Ridge council may be finding that solving homeless will take time and teamwork, says the MLA for Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows.

“I think they were raising expectations rather high because of the election campaign,” Doug Bing said of last November’s election.

“They’re trying to do things differently … and that’s quite typical of a new council.”

But after you’ve been in office for a while, it’s better to under promise and over deliver, he added.

Bing said Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson made the same promise  to end homelessness by 2015. Robertson may not have achieved that, but he’s made progress and it was a good aspirational goal, Bing said.

Maple Ridge Mayor Nicole Read made homelessness a major part of her campaign during the November 2014 municipal election.

Bing, along with MLA Marc Doug Dalton and MP representative Mike Murray were grilled by Maple Ridge council about homelessness at a special meeting earlier this month.

While Bing said he’s hadn’t been formally consulted or involved with the mayor’s task force on homelessness, was set up in January, Read told him that he should have been involved regardless.

Bing said it’s important to get everyone involved.

“You just can’t do it by yourself.”

For instance, street or outreach workers at the Ministry of Social Development and Social Innovation haven’t been involved yet with the mayor’s task force on homelessness, now known as Maple Ridge Resilience Initiative.

“What’s the point of Doug pointing that out?” asked Read. “If he feels there’s a role for them to play, why isn’t that information being provided to us?”

But the homeless task force is talking to the ministry office, which provides income assistance.

Bing also said the Salvation Army “haven’t been part of the discussion yet and they’re such an important part of this.”

But communication is improving, said the MLA.

And Minister Responsible for Housing Rich Coleman has made Bing the point man for Maple Ridge, he added.

Bing said B.C. Housing and Fraser Health are the two lead agencies representing the government.

Non-profit or volunteer agencies or charities or even individuals could help out. If someone was to rent out a secondary suite for a homeless person that would be one less person on the street.

“You get a few people doing that and all of a sudden you’ve got a whole bunch of people off the street.”

Bing, a former Pitt Meadows councillor, said the City of Pitt Meadows is taking a different approach to the issue.

“I think they tend to move people along.”

Allowing people to stay on Cliff Avenue has worsened the problem, he added.

Last week, there was about 30 tents at the homeless camp that formed in March behind the Salvation Army’s Caring Place on Lougheed Highway.

“It’s more difficult to remove once you allow them concentrate, that’s for sure.”

The homeless camp formed after the task force was created.

“People always look to the city to deal with the challenges. So we’ve responded,” Read said.

Previously, she added, there were few rental supplements from B.C. Housing offered in Maple Ridge. But now there are about 50 available.

She pointed  there’s limited rental stock in the area, which makes it difficult for people to move from supportive or transitional housing into the rental market.