B.C. Housing plans on building 55 modular homes on Royal Crescent this summer. (THE NEWS/files)

Letter: Better options for Royal Crescent

‘Cheaper to send the proposed 55 residents on an extended cruise.’

Editor, The News:

As the last tree falls on the old Mussallem property, local citizens will be the willing or unwilling recipients of a low-barrier, ‘harm reduction’ modular facility on arguably the most desirable piece of real estate in downtown Maple Ridge.

I was curious about the origin of the harm reduction model, which “accepts that drug use … is inevitable,” and that abstinence is “not a realistic goal for those with addictions.” (Paediatric Child Health).

I found an interesting paper by Gordon Roe of Simon Fraser University spelling out details of a strategy seeking to “accept that drug taking cannot be prevented, and instead to concentrate on reducing its consequences for health and crime,” a move to “palliative care” and “a dangerous acceptance of the … situation of drug users.”

He further says that it “offers little prospect for real, long-term solutions to the increasing difficulty posed to society for drug use.” (Critical Public Health)

One wonders, given the $4.5 million cost of land, plus the up to $100,000 per unit, plus the considerable monthly maintenance, whether the proposed facility is simply a politically expedient ‘quick fix,’ especially since it is planned as ‘temporary’— the rationale for side-stepping usual zoning processes. As I mentioned at a council meeting, by way of putting a little perspective on the matter, it would probably be cheaper to send the proposed 55 residents on an extended cruise – quite possibly not even including capital costs.

An enlightened architect could design upscale market housing on the site with penthouses to take advantage of the river views and include social housing in exchange for density bonusing or other incentives.

With the money saved, the residents of Anita Place could have what I gather a number there would prefer: some variation of trailers or ‘tiny homes’ in a kind of Anita Place village.

This could preserve the community of self-help that I have observed there and, together with support from volunteers and health professionals, in a more suitable location, would offer at least as many benefits as the modular proposal, and at a greatly reduced cost.

The balance could be applied to shorten the lists for those already in line for social housing and provide more detox beds and follow-up treatment.

From local studies, it is apparent that it is cheaper to house people than to leave them on the streets, not to mention being more humane. There is no question that people should be offered housing. However, one size does not fit all, and what may work in Downtown Eastside Vancouver is not what will work in Maple Ridge, unless perhaps we plan on duplicating that inimitable ambiance.

I read a study showing that crime increased within a 500-metre radius of such a facility and most of all within 100 metres.

We can all do the math.

There are alternatives to what is happening with unseemly haste beneath our gaze, but there is still time to choose more suitable options. I hope the government will choose wisely.

Sheila Smyth

Maple Ridge

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