Maple Ridge Mayor Nicole Read has written a letter to Housing Minister Rich Coleman

Pressure on province to provide shelter

Mayor Read wants to avoid another tent city.

Maple Ridge is putting the heat on the provincial government, asking it to show up at a future council meeting and explain, as soon as possible, how it’s going to help the 30 people remaining in the temporary homeless shelter on Lougheed Highway.

“The city does not want a repeat of the 2015 camp by breaking its promise to those who have so little trust in the system as it is, nor impose solutions on the community without public consultation,” Mayor Nicole Read says in an April 8 letter to Housing Minister Rich Coleman.

The temporary shelter opened at 22239 Lougheed Hwy., with a proposed closing date of March 30, to provide a place for people who were leaving the Cliff Avenue homeless camp.

The government, however, announced at the end of March that the closing date will be extended to June 30. At the same time, it backed away from the controversial conversion of the Quality Inn to supportive housing.

“I think the letter is in the spirit of making sure our homeless people get housed,” Read said at Monday’s council meeting.

Coun. Craig Speirs said the letter represents the good work that B.C. Housing has attempted to do. He said that putting in housing projects doesn’t involve a lot of public consultation.

“For us to get the consultation that we did was a victory for the community.”

The public meeting on converting the Quality Inn was cancelled after the province withdrew the proposal.

“The public, in my view, was whipped up,” Speirs said.

Read said the city wants to set high expectations for whatever housing is provided by the government and that the letter discourages putting the temporary shelter residents into yet another shelter.

“I most certainly don’t want to end up with another Cliff Avenue camp,” she said.

Coun. Kiersten Duncan supported that approach, saying that there has to be a focus on getting the remaining 30 people into permanent housing.

“At some point, they need to move to housing.”

Coun. Bob Masse, though, voted against the letter because of its ruling out shelters as another option for housing.

He wants B.C. Housing to be make its own decisions on the most practical way of housing the remaining people at the shelter.

“I don’t think we should limit their options.”

He’s confident B.C. Housing will find the remaining 30 people a place to live.

Masse also said the city will be limited in its efforts to decide what kind of housing or operation is provided when B.C. Housing proposes the $15-million permanent housing complex that it has promised.

“We have to work within the system.”

Coun. Corisa Bell said that the Lower Mainland Local Government Association is having a special meeting at its annual convention in May in Whistler on housing and will produce a report on the topic.

Speirs was skeptical, though, and didn’t want to raise people’s expectations that there were new solutions.

“At the moment, it’s a housing issue, homeless, housing … it’s pretty simple … then you deal with people issues.”

“This whole issue that we’re talking about is a Fraser Health issue,” said Coun. Gordy Robson.

The government announced in March it would spend $15 million to open a permanent supportive housing complex, if the city provided the land.

 

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