Questions and answers about Maple Ridge modular housing

YouTube presentation about Burnett Street project

People with substance abuse issues simply can’t be ordered into drug treatment or locked up until they get clean, the audience who tuned into a YouTube Live question-and-answer session heard Monday.

People’s rights have to be respected, said Dan Kipper, with Fraser Health.

And anytime someone is committed for treatment, it’s not done lightly, nor frequently, added Dr. Ingrid Tyler, also with Fraser Health.

“Taking away an individual’s rights is not something you want to be easy,” she said.

Both were on a panel assembled to answer questions via YouTube about B.C. Housing’s plan to put in 51 temporary modular housing units on Burnett Street to house former residents of Anita Place Tent City.

The project should be open by next October.

It has generated controversy with two recent rallies against the plan, with one objection being the location of the complex within a residential area.

However, B.C. Housing deliberately tries to build its housing complexes in residential areas.

“We really want our supportive housing to be part of the community,” said Dominic Flanagan, with B.C. Housing.

One questioner wanted to know if B.C. Housing was only funding low-barrier housing and if there was any second-stage housing available.

Naomi Brunemeyer, also with B.C. Housing, said the agency is also considering other affordable housing projects apart from supportive housing, in Maple Ridge.

Flanagan said that B.C. Housing follows the Housing First model.

“It provides housing first, not housing last,” he said.

There’s no expectation for people to go through programs before getting a place to live.

But neither is Housing First, housing only, Flanagan said, adding that housing is a starting point for people to improve their lives.

Darrell Burnham, CEO with Coast Mental Health, which will run the Burnett Street complex, said there’s no set time period for people to stay in such housing, but it’s usually at least a year.

Time limits are not imposed because that stresses out clients who start worrying where they’re going to live long before their tenancy is due to expire, he added.

One questioner asked what would happen if past or present residents of tent city refuse to move into the supportive housing.

Flanagan said that most people want to leave the camp.

“What we’re hearing at the moment is everybody who’s homeless at the camp wants somewhere to live.”

That could involve other housing options apart from supportive housing.

B.C. Housing is also discussing, in the longer term, a “made-in-Maple Ridge” alternative to supportive housing. But, in the meantime, people need to get housed, he added.

Burnham said a community advisory committee will be formed for the Burnett Street complex to deal with issues raised by neighbours. There will also be security at night and a phone number for residents to report problems.

While drug use is allowed inside supportive housing, Burnham said it’s expected that residents don’t use outside.

If people are found to be selling drugs or committing crimes or are threatening staff, they can be evicted.

Another round of small group consultations will take place in May.

Wesley Mann, of Burnett Street Neighbours, said previously that the online forum is a way of suppressing response.

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