Work has started on Burnett Street housing with completion by fall. (Phil Melnychuk/THE NEWS)

Second Maple Ridge summer protest over housing

Concerned about Burnett Street project

A scenario that played out last summer on Royal Crescent is being replayed on Burnett Street.

As work crews started on the 51-unit temporary supportive housing complex on Burnett Street, in central Maple Ridge last week, they were being watched from across the street by opponents.

“You cannot give these guys housing first. It’s got to be treatment,” Dave Anderson said Friday.

He lives next to the 53-unit supportive housing unit on Royal Crescent that opened in October and protested its construction last year, and was arrested briefly doing so.

With the Royal Crescent facility now operating, Anderson said he doesn’t hear much from his basement suite, but still doesn’t like the idea of low-barrier housing. He now opposes B.C. Housing’s second temporary complex on Burnett Street.

Terry Asunma, who lives on Burnett Street, has the same perspective.

“I’m all about treatment and clean housing,” he said.

The new facility is supposed to house those who had been living in Anita Place Tent City, which was evacuated for fire safety reasons on March 1.

Asuma said the provincial government is trying to just house people without spending the money for treatment.

He’s lost a patio chair from his condo at the end of Burnett Street, while his neighbours have had propane tanks stolen.

Asunma said he’d been at the Burnett site since Tuesday and plans on being there all summer.

A few houses north of the site, Herb Smyth was also concerned, adding that his vehicle has been broken into three times. He said that money should be going to provide more psychiatric treatment and rehabilitation for those with mental health or addiction problems.

Another resident on Burnett Street, though, favoured the housing, adding that it’s the first step in helping people.

Coast Mental Health, which will operate the building, will form a community advisory committee to deal with issues raised by neighbours. There will also be security at night and a phone number for residents to report problems.

Neighbours who have concerns can attend one of eight B.C. Housing meetings, but registration by e-mail is required.

READ MORE: Sign up for BC Housing small-group meetings on Burnett Street housing

A year ago, the previous Maple Ridge council defeated a B.C. Housing supportive housing proposal for the same property.

The Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing said in March that the facility will have 24-hour supports, while Fraser Health will provide clinical support services “on an as-needed basis.”

Counselling, life skills and employment services will also be offered.

MLA Bob D’Eith (Maple Ridge-Mission) said earlier that the supportive housing complex is temporary because that site is slated for a permanent, affordable senior citizens residence, once another permanent site is found for supportive housing.

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