News Views: In need

Maple Ridge council brings back, defeats hiring social planners.

News Views: In need

It’s not that having municipal social planners wouldn’t be beneficial.

It’s not that spending $195,000 to hire two of them, to help deal with homelessness issues in Maple Ridge, is a waste of money, because it’s not.

And it’s not that council initially approved to do so while one member was on sick leave and another on vacation, although we agree that while that may be part of politics – and a clever move – it wasn’t fair.

So Mayor Nicole Read agreed to bring the matter back when Coun. Robert Masse returned from vacation, and with Coun. Corisa Bell still on sick leave, the motion was defeated.

Masse sided with Couns. Tyler Shymkiw and Gordy Robson that the parks, recreation and culture department shouldn’t be taking on the issue of homelessness.

Masse said that cities shouldn’t get involved in social issues, that when cities provide services for the homeless, and living spaces are found for them, others wanting the same are attracted here.

“We can’t control the influx of people,” he said.

That raises an interesting point: if all cities refused to host such social services, where would the homeless go? Who would help them?

It’s not like homelessness – poverty, addiction, mental illness – is unique to Maple Ridge, or Pitt Meadows, or most, if not all Lower Mainland communities. And as Masse pointed out, it’s not like the problem is getting better. He wants cities to press senior governments for changes to mental health and foster care, as well as income assistance.

As part of Wednesday’s federal budget, the Liberal government promised $1 billion a year for housing affordability. How that addresses issues related to homelessness, we don’t know.

Read said the city is losing money by not having enough staff to research and apply for grants to help deal with homelessness.

With a provincial election set for spring, the B.C. Liberals have promised $15 million for a supportive housing facility in Maple Ridge, but will not commit on a location before the May 9 vote.

So what we have, at all levels of government, is more of the same – a conflict of ideologies, at the expense of those most in need.

– Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows News