Cutting funding to the Salvation Army’s emergency shelter at The Caring Place will affect other services, such as its meal program, with repercussions throughout Maple Ridge, says Patricia Cuff.
“It will hugely impact the community,” said Cuff, in charge of public relations with the Salvation Army.
Maple Ridge council this week asked B.C. Housing to end its $1 million annual funding for the 25-bed emergency shelter. The contract expires March 2017.
“But how it will play out, we just don’t know yet,” Cuff said.
B.C. Housing funding for the shelter pays for 70 per cent of the Caring Place’s $1.2 million annual budget, leading the Salvation Army to question if it can continue to operate if that money is no longer in place.
“So our challenge at this point is, if the shelter is not operating, then it does place at risk all the other programs,” Cuff said.
“We hope to continue to operate even in light of these recent statements.”
Just what services the Salvation Army will continue to offer, if it loses the funding for the shelter, remains to be seen.
“It does place us in a vulnerable position.”
Cuff said that the Salvation Amy operates more than 20 shelters in B.C. and one in five across Canada and has been doing that for 100 years.
“This is the first time a situation like this has happened.”
The Caring Place’s meal program provides 73,000 meals year, more than 10,000 meals a month, two times a day, to people on low incomes, including seniors.
That allows people to keep making their rent payments and stay in their homes and prevents more people from ending up on the street.
It also operates a 15-bed transitional unit – separately funded – a school lunch program, a drop-in program, where people can get showers and do laundry, and a crisis response unit for natural disasters.
While the city has asked B.C. Housing to stop funding the Caring Place, B.C. Housing has also said it will also pay the operating costs of a temporary shelter in Maple Ridge.
Once the shelter’s open, the city will be able to disperse the homeless camp that’s sprung up close to The Caring Place.
Maple Ridge Mayor Nicole Read said in her release Monday that people “have lost faith in the Salvation Army … It is time to act.”
Maple Ridge is trying to create “a service provision ecosystem based on concrete results,” she said.
She didn’t directly say the Salvation Army Caring Place created the camp, only that, “Where there is dysfunction in our service provision ecosystem, we’re willing to stand in the pocket and fight those battles for the community.”
She didn’t suggest which agencies could replace the Salvation Army.
Read also wants B.C. Housing to change its agreement with the Alouette Home Start Society in how it operates the Alouette Heights supportive housing building “to better meet the needs of the community, with needs to be identified by Maple Ridge council.”
Cuff said, “This is the first time a situation like this has happened. We’re here to serve the people. I think people will be hard-pressed to get a shelter that treats people with such strong dignity and respect as the Salvation Army.”
It’s too soon say what the Salvation Army will do or when.
But even without the shelter open, there could still be homeless camp on Cliff Avenue, only larger.
Cuff said the Salvation Army has met several times with the mayor.
“We’re quite surprised and disappointed by these statements,” especially since the Salvation Army has been working with the city on a plan to deal with the homeless camp.
“It’s easy to point fingers at the Salvation Army because we’re the only ones in town,” Cuff added.
She said Salvation Army staff make regular visits to the camp and many people don’t want to go to a shelter.
And if there was no meal program, where would people eat?
“If they weren’t getting meals from us, then who else?”
Would that mean people resorting to dumpster diving or mooching off residents or filching from businesses?
“It’s not in the DNA of the Salvation Army,” not to feed people. “We’re there to feed people.”
It has said it’s willing to relocate, though that’s a costly proposition. It does, however, own the land on which the shelter sits at 222nd Street and Lougheed Highway.
Any new location for the Salvation Army has to be near the downtown, close to services, Cuff said.
“The Salvation Army needs to be where it’s needed.”
Cuff didn’t have exact numbers but said about 25 per cent of those who go into the shelter, move on to treatment or independent living.
She said B.C. Housing has never raised any issues with how the Salvation Army operates the Caring Place.