Petitions against Quality Inn shelter

‘Revisit through public consultation.’

Former Maple Ridge councillor Michael Morden is leading the opposition to a supportive housing centre near downtown by starting an online petition.

As of Monday, 270 people had signed it, saying they oppose B.C. Housing’s purchase of the Quality Inn on Lougheed Highway, near 216th Street, for use as a long-term supportive housing complex.

“People are very concerned about what’s going on,” said Morden

Maple Ridge is about to upgrade its sports and recreation facilities costing millions.

Where are we going to house the incoming sports teams?” he asked.

“I’m looking for the questions to be asked, and to be answered.”

Morden added that there’s been no neighbourhood consultation and there’s been nothing to measure the impact of such a complex.

“I don’t believe that going into the Quality Inn is the right answer,” he said, speaking personally, not on behalf of the local chamber of commerce, of which he is president.

Morden, who ran against Mayor Nicole Read in the November 2014 civic election, gives some credit to council for attracting $5.5 million in spending from B.C. Housing.

But he wants council, as well as local MLAs and B.C. Housing, to revisit the issue and go through a public process to re-evaluate the selection of the Quality Inn as a site where supportive housing will be offered to the remaining 40 residents of temporary homeless shelter in downtown Maple Ridge.

He also wants to know exactly how the complex will operate. He favours a long-term supportive housing complex, provided it’s in the right place.

“Otherwise, decisions will be made in the same way that the RainCity shelter was made, in absence of any kind of process.”

B.C. Housing also announced last week that the temporary shelter at 22239 Lougheed Highway would stay open another three months, until the Quality Inn had been renovated.

Initially, the temporary shelter was to be open only from Oct. 1 to March 31 to allow the city to clear the Cliff Avenue homeless camp beside the Salvation Army.

Morden said turning the hotel into a supportive housing complex will remove about half of the hotel spaces in Maple Ridge.

“This is about the community here. There are places where this can work,” he said, adding he knows that supportive housing has to be near services.

Mayor Nicole Read said that it would be difficult for council to refuse the hotel location. Doing so would mean scattering sites across the city.

“I don’t think that’s a better option,” she said.

B.C. courts have also ruled that cities have to provide place for people to live, and if they don’t, people are allowed to camp outside.

Abbotsford turned down a supportive housing complex a few years ago and a street camp resulted, Read pointed out.

“When B.C. Housing comes forward with $5.5 million and a plan … that they are saying they believe will work, it’s very difficult position for council to say, ‘No, we don’t want to see you try to make that work.’”

Read said B.C. Housing has also mentioned building a purpose-built facility, possibly similar to the 3030 Gordon complex in Coquitlam, and which could operate in tandem with the long-term supportive housing complex at the Quality Inn.

“The city would have to find land, so there’s a lot of work that needs to be done on that,” Read said.

Maple Ridge and B.C. Housing have yet to sign a memorandum of understanding calling for the opening of the supportive housing complex. That will be finalized after a public input session on the proposal, a date for which has yet to be set.

Read also said that the province will follow the city’s rezoning process, which will require a public hearing. It’s possible if councillors change their vote that the proposal could be defeated.

Only Couns. Gordy Robson and Corisa Bell opposed the initial March 7 resolution calling for converting the Quality Inn.

“I don’t think this has been an easy process,” said Read.

She admitted she was angry and frustrated at the temporary shelter not closing by the March 31 deadline.

“I was not at all happy to have to move forward on the resolution to keep it open for another three months.”

Read said even B.C. Housing was surprised by the acuity of addiction and mental illness of the shelter’s last 40 residents. That meant it has taken longer to find them housing.

She pointed out that the Quality Inn has been for sale for a while and, if it sold, it could have been used for other purposes, removing those hotel rooms from the city tourism resources. It’s now more urgent that Maple Ridge get more hotel spaces.

Robson said if the city had rejected converting the Quality Inn into long-term housing, he doubts that the temporary shelter residents would have been put out on to the street.

Those people could have been relocated to other shelters, he said.

Robson was the contractor and co-owner of the hotel when it was built in the 1980s.

“These people don’t need housing, they need treatment. They’re unhouseable. It’s going to tear the town apart.”

Council, on Monday, approved a motion calling for Housing Minister Rich Coleman to work with MLAs Bing and Marc Dalton to affirm that the Quality Inn is the best place for a supportive housing project, and to name an alternative if that wasn’t the case.

Dalton said it’s been a “very challenging situation for our community. It’s not easy.”

He wants to wait until public consultation process to take place, adding there’s no easy solution, although providing housing and servicing is important.

The province has stepped up and purchased the property because of the need, he added.

But waiting for something else to be built could take a while and create a lag in services.

“We’re walking through this together.”