The Salvation Army Ridge Meadows Ministries could soon be on the move to make room for a new road and a re-worked intersection at Lougheed Highway and 222nd Street.
Maple Ridge Coun. Gordy Robson said the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure wants to prioritize the corner at 222nd Street and the Haney Bypass as it begins work on a $70-million project to improve Lougheed Highway in Maple Ridge and Mission.
“I don’t think the final decision has been made, but I’m pretty sure it will be made in the next week or so. Because of the speed with which they want to fix the bypass, it’s going to cause some issues with the shelters. It’s going to be relocated,” Robson said of the Salvation Army.
Relocation of the building was raised when the highway improvement project was announced last March. The work includes reconfiguration of the intersection of Lougheed Hwy. and 222nd Street, as well as that at Kanaka Way to improve safety for traffic travelling in both directions.
Grant Smith, ministry of transportation operations manager, said then that the improvements were still in the design phase.
“The design will dictate what we need for property.”
Then MLA Marc Dalton said that a portion of the Salvation Army property, where parking stalls front the highway, would be taken for the improvements.
Robson said this week that the road construction process could be so fast that the emergency homeless shelter will be torn down before the Salvation Army can find a new location.
Meanwhile, the search is still on for a location for the new supportive housing and emergency shelter, an issue that’s dogged city council and provincial politicians for the past two years.
Two proposed locations for a new supportive housing and emergency shelter, costing about $15 million, were rejected last year by then MLAs Doug Bing and Dalton.
Robson, though, says the relocation of the Salvation Army and the hunt for a new location for a supportive housing complex makes it evident that there should be only one shelter.
“The relocation of the Salvation Army would be in replacement of building another shelter. I’m pretty sure the relocation of the Salvation Army will happen and I would think it will probably be the shelter.
“I think it gives the community an excellent opportunity to re-evaluate what we’re doing with our shelters and what the plan is.”
He said most people believe there should be only one shelter in the city.
But Coun. Craig Speirs favours two shelters in Maple Ridge, including the Salvation Army, saying that gives the best chance of getting people off the street.
“I think we’re going to need more than one.”
Salvation Army executive-director Darrell Pilgrim hasn’t heard a word about having to relocate to make room for a wider road.
“No one has said anything to us.”
The Salvation Army moved into the former fabric store at the entrance to downtown in 2002. It owns the building, meaning the ministry would have to buy that to proceed with the road improvement.
“We are committed to serving this community,” Pilgrim said.
Pilgrim pointed out the building was acquired after a community group requested a shelter to help with the numbers of homeless people in Maple Ridge at that time.
Before that, the Salvation Army was in various locations in the downtown since 1990.
In the last few years, the Salvation Army changed its operation model after a request by the provincial government to become a low-barrier.
There’s now storage space at the shelter, so people have a place to store their belongings, and harm reduction supplies. Clean needles are now available. People don’t have to be clean of drugs, but they can’t use them on premises.
The 30-bed emergency shelter at the Salvation Army is full every night.
“We’re turning about six or seven people away nightly,” Pilgrim said.
The Salvation Army received extra funding to find floor space for 30 extra people until March 31 after the Rain City Housing temporary homeless shelter on Lougheed Highway closed this spring.
But only nine people from that 40-bed shelter are now at the Salvation Army.
Maple Ridge Mayor Nicole Read wouldn’t comment about the shelters or Haney Bypass improvement project.
“I can’t talk about any of it. It’s just in conversations with the province right now,” she said about a proposed new shelter for Maple Ridge. “We’re going to need to have many conversations with province. We need to work together until we get something resolved.”
Council held a special closed meeting Tuesday involving the provincial government.