The provincial government is going ahead and building another 51 temporary supportive modular homes on property it owns at 11749 Burnett St., the same site rejected last year by Maple Ridge council.
The units and a medical room will provide space for the 47 people who are homeless and, until recently, were residing at Anita Place Tent City, according to B.C. Housing and community partners.
“Our goal is to quickly get people into housing where they can get the help and support they’ve long been needing, while working to close the camp in a managed way,” Selina Robinson, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, said in a release Wednesday.
Maple Ridge Mayor Mike Morden was not pleased with the province’s decision, as council passed the city’s social housing plan last week – after Robinson issued a deadline – and included a recommendation to expand the current modular housing development on Royal Crescent.
“We understand that the province has the jurisdiction to act unilaterally,” Morden said.
He had hoped that meeting with cabinet ministers on Feb. 25, along with the social housing plan would satisfy the province.
Coast Mental Health will be operate the new building, providing 24-hour supports for residents who will have self-contained suites with washrooms and kitchenettes.
Coast Mental Health also operates the temporary modular housing on Royal Crescent, which opened last fall.
Fraser Health will provide clinical support services at the new site. Other supports will include counselling, life skills and employment programming, as well as daily meals.
“We look forward to collaborating with the province and the City of Maple Ridge to ensure the design and operations of the Burnett site meet the needs of the community,” said Darrell Burnham, CEO, Coast Mental Health.
“As the operator of two supportive housing sites in Maple Ridge, we recognize the importance in building homes with support services that encourage healthy and inclusive communities.”
Robinson said the benefits of providing housing will extend into the community to the neighbours, businesses, first responders “and everyone impacted by the camp.”
B.C. estimates it will take five months to complete the new building, with construction beginning in April.
Robinson has written to Maple Ridge council to ask city staff to work with B.C. Housing staff to determine how best to support homeless people in the community until the housing can be completed.
B.C. Housing will also keep the evacuation shelter at 22239 Lougheed Highway open until the end of the lease on March 31, to allow time for such discussions.
”We need to put in place a plan to support these people until the homes can be completed,” said Robinson. “Without a plan, we risk leaving desperate people no choice but to create another tent city or to scatter throughout the community, neither of which is in the best interests of either the campers or the community of Maple Ridge as a whole.”
Robinson said B.C. Housing, in keeping with the city’s social housing plan, will work with on the design of new affordable seniors’ housing for the Burnett site, so that construction can proceed as soon as a permanent home for the supportive housing units has been found.
Maple Ridge council rejected a proposal for an 85-unit supportive housing and shelter at the Burnett site last May before first reading, after residents protested and started a petition.
“This is an outrage,” Wesley Mann, with Burnett Street Neighbours, said of this week’s decision.
“We have 10,000 signatures, our MLAs refuse to meet with us to see them.”
The group collected the petition last year when it was opposing B.C. Housing’s plan for an 85-unit supportive housing and shelter at the same location.
“We changed our municipal government. We’ll change our provincial one,” he added.