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Woman lists people dying in Maple Ridge supportive housing

Formerly homeless, she blames operator for conditions: ‘Tent City with a roof’
This photo of a room in the Royal Crescent mods created caused a stir in Maple Ridge social media pages in 2020. The person in the room is blacked out. (Diedra Lucas/Special to The News)

A Maple Ridge woman has posted a grim list to her Facebook page, with shocking details of deaths happening in the facilities housing the city’s homeless.

Diedra Lucas wrote a list that purports to tell the circumstances of the deaths of 12 women and 10 men during the past two years, most at a temporary modular housing on Royal Crescent – a facility run by Coast Mental Health.

Lucas spent 16 months living on the streets of Maple Ridge, during her personal struggles with addiction.

She has been in recovery for the past seven years, but maintains friendships and close ties with the street population.

Her insider’s opinion has been sought by the council of Mayor Nicole Read and current Mayor Mike Morden. She is a frequent critic of how homelessness and addiction are being addressed, and when she wrote about the deaths of these people, it came to the attention of local politicians and the heads of organizations.

It names people who died from overdoses in, who were not discovered for days, she said.

It also alleges in many cases that staff could have done more to prevent the deaths of people with medical conditions.

“Every one of them I knew personally, and for years,” she told The News.

One post is about a man who died of a fentanyl overdose. Lucas claimed his body stayed in the room for four days, until tenants began to complain about an odour from his room.

A woman allegedly received a traumatic beating from a local drug dealer, and suffered a head injury. She left hospital against advice. She was the victim of further violence from the dealer’s associates, and died in her room. Staff found her body there.

Another woman had a stent in her leg, which should have been monitored by staff, said Lucas, but she died in surgery.

A man died of blood loss after a leg aneurysm, and she alleges staff delayed in calling 9-1-1.

While Lucas acknowledges that the people in supportive housing are more at risk than the general population, she said the number of deaths contradicts claims of “wraparound services” and supports that were promised when the facilities opened.

One of the most horrific cases, which occurred just before she posted the list on Jan. 30, involved a man who was accidentally set on fire by a faulty power bar in his room at Royal Crescent.

He ran into the hallway, engulfed in flames. He was rushed to hospital by air ambulance, and died at Vancouver General.

Lucas was assisted in compiling the list by a resident of the Garibaldi Ridge facility.

He was on the scene at the mods on Royal Crescent when the fire happened.

He is highly critical of staff’s actions during the fire incident.

A resident doused the flames with a fire extinguisher, then used a cup to pour water over the victim, to cool him.

Maple Ridge fire chief Michael Van Dop confirmed there was a fire death at the Royal Crescent modular housing in January.

He said it was accidental, and could have happened in any residential setting, but was very traumatic for all the staff and residents who witnessed it.

READ ALSO: Maple Ridge’s modular housing opens Friday

Lucas said not all of the staff are open to criticism. Some staff members have said they spend an entire shift “stabbing people” – slang for administering Narcan to someone overdosing – and the stress shows.

“It’s Tent City with a roof,” Lucas said.

The News has made efforts to establish the veracity of the list.

Chris Bossley, a longtime advocate for the street population, saw the list and re-posted it to the social media page Anita Place Tent City.

“It is a tragic list,” she said, and verified the circumstances of much of it from her personal knowledge of the residents, and their friends.

Bossley knew a resident who died from an infection, who refused to go to the hospital.

“I would have called 9-1-1 and had paramedics attend, but nothing was done, and she was found dead in her suite the next day,” said Bossley.

She was trying to help a resident who was evicted because he could not get a hoarding disorder under control.

“Coast is supportive housing – they’re supposed to help people with these issues,” she said.

But he was evicted. He was taken in by a friend, and as Bossley helped him unpack his things, most of which had been thrown into garbage bags, she alleges there were “tons of sharps” – used needles that had been sent home with him in the bags.

The modular housing on Royal Crescent will be replaced by a new housing unit on 224th Street, and Bossley said she would like to see the province bring in a new operator.

“I’m adamantly opposed to allowing Coast to run that building.”

A resident of the modular housing on Royal Crescent, Frank Juker, confirmed that Lucas is well known there, and agreed with her assertions about the facility.

An elderly man with a fishing rod across his walker, he was making his way down the street to the Port Haney Wharf. He claimed staff are generally not concerned with the well-being of residents.

“I had been asking to go to hospital so many times. Finally, I collapsed, and they called me an ambulance.”

He has antibiotics, but they have been twice stolen from his room. He has asked staff to keep the pills, and give them to him on schedule, but they refuse, Juker said.

He lived outdoors for 18 years in Maple Ridge, but failing health pushed him inside, he explained.

“I live in fear every night,” said Juker. “I’ll die there.”

Coast Mental Health, the operator of Royal Crescent, operates three supported housing facilities in Maple Ridge, including Garibaldi Ridge and Alouette Heights. They would not provide statistics about the number of deaths, or the causes at their facilities.

Susan Hancock, the manager of communications, responded to questions by email, saying the organization is one of the largest non-profit housing providers in B.C., with an exemplary standing with Accreditation Canada – a health-care standards agency.

“We take our health and safety standards very seriously in order to provide a high level of care at our facilities.

“When a death occurs, we work with emergency response services and family members to respectfully care for the individual who has passed.

“Details presented in a recent social media post are not correct and, in our opinion, this type of misinformation only re-traumatizes family and friends who are grieving the loss of a loved one,” said Hancock.

“Due to the chronic health issues of many of our tenants, illness, hospitalizations, and deaths do occur at our facilities.

“We don’t provide public information about the number of fatalities at any of our sites because the official cause of death is the responsibility of the BC Coroner.

“Allegations suggesting illegal activities by Coast Mental Health employees are simply not true and, in our opinion, are clearly attempting to discredit our organization,” she said.

“Our workforce consists of professional health-care workers, including mental health workers, social workers, nurses and a visiting psychiatrist.

“Our employees continue to do an incredible job of providing stability and daily supports to people living with mental health and substance use disorders in the community.”

READ ALSO: Garibaldi Ridge housing open in Maple Ridge

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Neil Corbett

About the Author: Neil Corbett

Neil Corbett has been a journalist for more than 30 years, the past decade with the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows News.
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