News Views: Losing faith

The city has asked B.C. Housing to stop funding the Salvation Army homeless shelter in Maple Ridge.

We can hear the cheers.

The city has asked B.C. Housing to stop funding the Salvation Army homeless shelter in Maple Ridge.

You could see the move coming, as the city pushed those living on the street to a camp on Cliff Avenue, adjacent to the Salvation Army Caring Place, and allowed them to stay there.

The cumulation of homeless people at the camp and all the associated problems, from thefts to drug overdoses to fights – a woman had the tip of her finger bitten off – served as evidence the Salvation Army’s inability to help the people on the streets.

Creating the camp was a calculated move by the city, borne out of more than a decade of the Sally Ann in downtown Maple Ridge, without any real improvement and to the detriement of the surrounding neighbourhood.

No one questions the good work and intentions of the Caring Place, but as Mayor Nicole Read pointed out, it’s time to move forward.

She wants results – ‘outcomes for dollars spent, measured by performance metrics.’

She wants accountability.

Read said the community has “lost faith” in the Salvation Army, and a different shelter provider is needed.

The city intends to open its own temporary shelter and will announce a location later this week. It could still be downtown.

Maple Ridge also wants more control over Alouette Heights, an $8 million supportive housing project that opened on city land in 2012. It helps people with mental illness and addiction issues. The city thinks people have been staying there longer than they are supposed to.

All of this fits with Mayor Read’s campaign promise to end homelessness in Maple Ridge and her new task force created to accomplish that.

B.C. Housing still has to rule on the Salvation Army and Alouette Heights.

And the camp on Cliff Avenue still has to be disbanded, its inhabitants to agree with conditions set by the city.

No one is saying this will happen quickly.

But there is some cooperation between the municipal and provincial governments.

What involvement the federal government has won’t be determined until after October’s election.

But for now, Mayor Read and the city have deflected criticism that dogged previous administrations – that they didn’t do anything.

The Salvation Army didn’t create the homeless problem in Maple Ridge.

It’s just not equipped to deal with the myriad factors that cause it.

– Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows News

 

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