Grover Telford has questions and concerns about the temporary homeless shelter at 22239 Lougheed Highway.
What are the goals of the shelter? How many people are being transferred into treatment? What is the success rate of treatment?
To draw attention to his quest for knowledge, the former Maple Ridge council candidate is organizing the On Site Community Expression of Concern this Saturday, at 11 a.m., across the street from the shelter.
“Please note that it is a respectful and peaceful gathering,” Telford said on the Facebook group Protecting Maple Ridge.
“We’re going to plant ourselves across the street from the shelter,” he added later.
The intent is not to provoke or confront anyone, just to make the point that people still have questions.
“Whether you agree with the shelter or not, it was kind of dumped on the business area.”
Politicians talk about transparency, but Telford questions how much transparency occurred when the shelter’s location was announced this past summer.
Maple Ridge council made a decision on a location in a closed meeting and because rezoning wasn’t required, a public meeting wasn’t needed.
The shelter closes on March 31, but Telford is concerned about the selection process for any permanent shelter that may follow.
Matt Kelso has several questions about the shelter that he wants answered, as well.
He met with Rain City Housing staff Nov. 4, but still hasn’t received detailed replies to a list of questions.
He was told that people can inject drugs on site, providing they follow the “buddy system,” in which two users watch each other, to ensure neither overdoses.
He’s questioning the effectiveness of the shelter, saying that people are not being encouraged to kick their habits.
“So someone can stay there for six months, don’t take advantage of any of the programs, stay on drugs the whole time, use everyday till it closes. Are they still allowed to stay? They said yes.”
Rain City pointed that out in a fact sheet when the shelter opened Oct. 1.
“Abstinence is not a requirement for staying at the shelter, but is one of many possible positive outcomes that will occur for folks staying at the shelter,” said the fact sheet.
It follows the Housing First program, in which people are first found homes, then helped to deal with whatever issues they have, rather than insisting on abstinence as a condition of getting housed.
Kelso was also told that staff don’t know how many people with criminal records are staying at the shelter and that there’s only one counsellor there once a week.
Kelso expects to receive a response from the shelter operators soon to all his questions.