Some on Maple Ridge council are saying the senior government has to take on the tough issue of helping and housing the homeless and mentally ill in this city.
Council met recently with provincial representatives in a closed meeting as it tries to resolve an issue that’s been lingering for two years.
B.C. Housing has made two previous proposals for a $15-million shelter or supportive housing complex, both of which were rejected by the previous Liberal government.
Currently, the Salvation Army Ridge Meadows Ministries is funded for operating an emergency shelter for the homeless.
RainCity Housing’s temporary homeless shelter in Maple Ridge closed at the end of May.
Currently, homeless camp at the Anita Place tent city, where Conservation officers shot a bear out of a tree on Friday.
Maple Ridge Mayor Nicole Read said provincial health agencies need to decide on what kind of shelter is needed and explain that to the public and treat it as a medical issue.
“Nobody consults city councillors or the mayor on cancer treatment. Are we going to have a shelter? Are we going to have supportive housing?”
She regrets the city trying to explain the previous proposal for a supportive housing complex on behalf of the province.
“At the end of day, we’re not health-care representatives.”
The main issue is helping people get better, but how to do that requires clarification. If it’s a health issue, it’s up to the provincial experts to determine how best to deal with Maple Ridge’s homeless, she said.
Read is not saying the MLAs should solely take on the project, as former Liberal MLAs, Doug Bing and Marc Dalton did before the May 2017 election.
“Where’s Fraser Health in the conversation?” she asked.
The Ministry of Mental Health and Addiction needs to determine how to address the issues of mental health and addiction that are causing homelessness, she added.
Coun. Tyler Shymkiw has similar views, saying both the government and MLAs have to get support from the public.
He said the MLAs and the provincial government have to prove to the public that shelters work.
“Public engagement has to be at the beginning of the process,” he said, adding he was speaking personally.
That should all be done before a location is chosen, he added.
“I think they have a responsibility to develop social licence for these facilities and show the public and show local government that these solutions actually work,” Shymkiw said.
“I think it’s very easy to hide these problems – in shelters.”
He hasn’t seen anything from B.C. Housing or the provincial government showing that low-barrier shelters work.
“They have to show that and they have to demonstrate that.”
The city would still have to approve any rezoning for a site.
Coun. Gordy Robson said if B.C. Housing makes another proposal, he’ll suggest that it consult the public and determine what sort of shelter to operate, before searching for a location.
Meanwhile, the Salvation Army Ridge Meadows Ministries shelter could also be relocating from its location at 222nd Street and the Haney Bypass, at Lougheed Highway, to make room for a new highway interchange.