Prostitution at Maple Ridge supportive housing ‘unlikely’

Alouette Heights to open in summer, tenants will be screened.

It could happen, admits Stephanie Ediger, executive-director Alouette Home Start Society.

A sex trade worker could get into one of the 45-bachelor apartments at the Alouette Heights supportive housing complex when it opens sometime this summer on 222nd Street and Brown Avenue.

But it is unlikely, however.

Too many checks and safeguards reduce the chances of anyone in the sex trade business from moving in, and if they managed to do so and wanted to continue that lifestyle, they’d be encouraged to find another place.

“We have thought about those issues,” says Stephanie Ediger, executive-director of the society.

A UBC-B.C. Centre for Excellence in AIDS/HIV study earlier this month said indoor sex-work spaces reduce the risk of violence and HIV for prostitutes and results in better relationships with police. The study was based on interviews with 39 women prostitutes living in supportive housing in Vancouver.

“We have our tenant-selection committee,” Ediger says. “There’s a screening process that needs to take place.”

Prospective residents of the Alouette Heights first need some form of income, either through social assistance or employment – 30 per cent of which they’d have to pay for rent to stay at Alouette Heights.

There also are rules against criminal activity or home businesses in the building.

Ediger said Alouette Heights isn’t intended to be permanent housing.

Staff who are screening residents will want to know where residents are and where they are going in the future.

Each tenant will develop an individualized support plan with their support worker on entry to the project.

“We plan to monitor it and make sure that does not become part of the Alouette Heights community.”

The legal issue, though, of sorting out of being able to control who does what inside their own apartment may be more difficult, says Ediger.

Visitors also will have to sign in and sign out of the building while doors will be locked after 10 p.m., requiring residents to be buzzed in by staff. In addition to a live-in caregiver there also will be a supportive housing coordinator, along with tenant support workers.

Ediger doesn’t think it will be a “huge problem” and said if people want to continue that lifestyle, they’ll be encouraged to leave.

Mayor Ernie Daykin can’t see prostitution taking place in the building.

The complex will be staffed 24/7 and there will be supports in place to ensure such activity doesn’t take place.

After people complete drug rehab programs, Daykin said he’s seen people fail many times, because of the lack of supportive housing as the final step to re-entering society.

“This has the potential to reduce the number of folks who are on our streets.”

Supportive housing is the fourth phase of housing, preceded first by homeless shelters and transitional housing, such as at the Salvation Army.

A landmark decision by the Ontario Court of Appeal will allow sex workers to legally work in safer indoor spaces starting next year. The court concluded that laws preventing sex workers from working together under one roof or hiring security staff fail to protect sex workers and exacerbate harms.

While the decision is not currently binding outside Ontario, if upheld by the Supreme Court of Canada, the government will be forced to ensure the laws are brought in line with the evidence.

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