Residents want say on new shelter

Council made a decision “without consulting the public in any significant way.”

Maple Ridge residents want to have a say and be able to express their concerns about the city’s temporary homeless shelter when it opens in October.

At the end of a long council meeting last week, Kanaka Way resident Jen Watts wanted to know if a community forum or town hall meeting will take place once the shelter opens in the old Sleep Shop on Lougheed Highway and 222nd Street, as part of an effort to disband the homeless camp on Cliff Avenue nearby.

Once the operator of the shelter is formally announced, it will hold a public meeting explaining how the building will function and how to reduce impacts on the community, said Mayor Nicole Read.

Family lawyer Rhonda Murray, whose practice is a block away from the Sleep Shop building, said the public has had no say in the location of the new shelter and that downtown businesses don’t want it.

Council made a decision “without consulting the public in any significant way.”

Is council aware that most businesses oppose the location of the temporary shelter? she asked.

“Council is aware that we have a difficult situation,” and council had to find a location where the homeless from Cliff Avenue camp could access, Read replied.

Melissa Craich wanted to know if the public will have a say on where or when a new, permanent shelter is built.

“Whatever comes forward, will we have some kind of public consultation?”

If a new shelter was being planned, there would be some kind of public engagement, Read replied.

Normally, if rezoning or construction is required, it would go to public hearing, Read added.

But Craich pointed out the city is opening the temporary shelter without public consultation because rezoning wasn’t required, “so technically, we could have another one [shelter] plunked down somewhere.”

Read replied, “Normally we have a public hearing if we rezone. So right now, anything I say is highly speculative.

“We don’t know what our plans are going into the future with respect to any kind of capital investment.”

Council needs to talk to B.C. Housing about what happens in March, when the temporary shelter is supposed yo close.

The city paid for renovations to the old Sleep Shop along with the monthly leasing costs of more than $7,000, while B.C. Housing pays for the staffing or contractor, likely RainCity Housing, to operate the 40-bed facility.

Council made its decision on a location for the temporary shelter at a closed meeting Aug. 14. Negotiations involving land purchases or legal issues are usually done in closed meetings, as allowed in the Community Charter.

In August, council asked B.C. Housing to cut its $1-million yearly funding to the Salvation Army’s 25-bed emergency shelter at the Caring Place.

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