RainCity could stay open to May 31

Closing deadline is arbitrary: MLA Doug Bing.

The temporary homeless shelter could be extended again, until May 31, instead of March 31, to give it time to wind down.

The shelter, operated by RainCity Housing at 22239 Lougheed Hwy., was supposed to close next month.

“We requested that it be closed March 31,” Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows MLA Doug Bing said on Tuesday.

“If Fraser Health feels that they need more time, that’s their call,” he added. “So I think people will understand that. I don’t think you can set arbitrary deadlines.”

Bing and Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows MLA Marc Dalton announced last week that the downtown shelter would stop taking new registrants on March 1. At the same time, a curfew would be imposed.

The MLAs said that 30 mats will be available for six months at the Salvation Army Ridge Meadows Ministries to accept those currently in the temporary shelter, which has a capacity of 40.

The remaining 10 are expected to be found housing.

Dalton said the mats will be available at the Salvation Army by March 15 and that he’s pushing to have the shelter vacated by March 31.

“The shelter is not continuing,” Dalton said.

But some of the residents living there have been hard to house.

“Our goal is to get a permanent site. That’s not forgotten at all.”

B.C. Housing has promised $15 million for a permanent shelter and supportive housing complex, but the MLAs have rejected two locations after public outcry.

Dalton said the Salvation Army is receiving about $250,000 from B.C. Housing to cover costs to provide the 30 extra mats, which will be set up in the cafeteria.

The Salvation Army also receives another $1 million a year for its 25-bed emergency shelter.

Coun. Kiersten Duncan said that some residents of the Cliff Avenue tent camp, vacated in fall of 2015, indicated previously that weren’t comfortable at the Salvation Army.

“If there are no other options, we’ll end up with a camp.”

She also questioned the six-month period for which the temporary mats are funded and whether people will be able to be housed in that period.

She pointed out that people couldn’t be found homes in the one-and-a-half years that the temporary homeless shelter was open. Eighteen of the temporary shelter’s 40 residents initially came from the Cliff Avenue tent camp.

She disagreed with the curfew being imposed as of March 1 at the temporary homeless shelter and sent documents that show that only six of 41 shelters in the Lower Mainland have curfews.

The information comes from bc211, a Vancouver-based non-profit organization that specializes in providing information and referral regarding community, government and social services in B.C.

“I understand that the MLAs have chosen to implement that because of community feedback. However, that is not the advice of the experts in the field.”

Council previously rejected a curfew following advice from the RCMP, she said.

People with anxiety or claustrophobia may not do well in a place with a curfew, Duncan added.

Those who decide to move to the Salvation Army will not be allowed inside between 1 and 8 p.m.

“They’re just going to be on the streets,” Duncan said. “And if they miss the curfew, they’re going to be on the streets.”

Coun. Gordy Robson also wanted the RainCity shelter closed in March, instead of May.

“I’m disappointed that we’re waiting that long,” said Robson.

He also supplied a survey that shows most area shelters have curfews.

Mayor Nicole Read said council hasn’t been kept up to date about the recent decisions by the province.

Last year, Salvation Army shelters across B.C. all became low-barrier, meaning people can bring in their pets and possessions and they can stay in all day.

“I just think these MLAs don’t make evidence-based decisions,” Read said.

“When they come out and say, ‘Trust us, let’s get past the election in May,’ essentially,” she added.

“What are they going to do in three months, that they haven’t done in 18 months?”

She said council had good reason to ask the province in 2015 to stop funding the Salvation Army’s $1-million-a-year emergency shelter because street people were not being found permanent housing and were just rotating in and out of the shelter.

“Are they able to fix that?” Read asked. “Possibly.”

When she was reviewing shelter operators previously, there was a “noticeable difference, for me, that the level of qualification of Rain City people was higher.”

The temporary homeless shelter opened in October 2015, to allow the dispersal of the Cliff Avenue tent camp and was supposed to close after six months. But the March 31, 2016 closure date was extended to June, then extended again to this March 31.

 

 

 

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