A dozen or so people gathered in front of the Alouette Heights Supportive Housing building on a sunny Wednesday afternoon to protest what they have deemed a guest ban by Coast Mental Health.
Despite the lovely weather, the mood was one of desperation and gloom.
The ralliers were lead by housing advocate Ivan Drury, who said a guest ban in supportive housing is a violation of residential tenancy rights, and in contradiction to regional health orders.
“Nowhere in the provincial health order does the government call for people to stop having guests in their homes altogether,” he said.
“And nowhere do they award landlords the power to restrict guests, or to decide which guests are allowable in a tenant suite.
“It’s also against the recommendations from regional health districts that have called specifically for supportive housing operators to not ban guests, because it increases the likelihood of overdose deaths, social isolation and other harms.”
Coast Mental Health said the order was more of a restriction than a ban.
“In accordance with the Provincial Health Officer Order in place, which is asking us all to limit our interactions with family and friends to one to two people, we’re now asking tenants to limit the number of guests at their homes,” said Susan Hancock in an email to The News.
“We would like to make clear that this isn’t a guest ban, but a request to limit the number of guests in our facilities in an effort to keep everyone safe.
“With the increasing number of COVID-19 cases in the Fraser Health region, we’ve put in place safety plans at each of our facilities to keep everyone safe. This includes visitor restrictions at some of our locations to protect clients who live with compromised immune systems. Often these are vulnerable populations with complex health needs that include chronic illness. We also want to ensure our front-lines workers are protected as they provide tenants at these locations with 24 hour/ 7-day-a-week health care supports.”
Also speaking at the protest was Maple Ridge Street Outreach Society’s Tracy Scott, who lives in the Alouette Heights building.
“We’re already in an opioid crisis where we’re told not to stay alone,” she said, “And now we’re being told to stay away from everybody, which is totally confusing.”
Scott said for those living with addiction, social isolation can be very detrimental.
“It’s mainly trauma that put us where we are today, so when we’re all alone, it only causes us to relive that trauma over and over again.”
She listed many friends she has lost since the pandemic began, and said it is only going to get worse.
“Street people have a particularly hard time at Christmas,” she said.
“Suicide rates go up, and people with mental health issues see their issues get worse.
The protesters were on edge after City of Maple Ridge bylaw and Ridge Meadows RCMP arrived shortly before the news conference and ticketed organizers for gathering in the park adjacent to the building beforehand.
“We just received a municipal bylaw infraction ticket for violation of the Maple Ridge Parks bylaw for gathering in the park in a support meeting to prepare of this new conference,” Drury said.
Hancock said the restrictions will remain in place until COVID-19 cases are significantly reduced and the provincial order is lifted.
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