A Vancouver TV news program called Maple Ridge the new Downtown Eastside last week after residents complained about open drug use in the city.
The latter is not new to downtown Maple Ridge, and it has nothing to do with the temporary homeless shelter operated by RainCity Housing. Nor are the mayor, the city, the RCMP to blame.
Homelessness and drug use have plagued downtown Maple Ridge for more than a decade.
Before the Salvation Army opened its temporary homeless shelter at the corner of Lougheed Highway and the Haney Bypass, it offered the same services out of a church on Dewdney Trunk Road.
Before the Sally Ann shelter, homeless camps existed on numerous lots and in parks throughout the city. Remnants of drug use littered such places, as city staff and RCMP pushed the occupants along.
We saw the extent of the problem when the homeless were allowed to camp on Cliff Avenue.
The downtown had seemed more civil in the months after the city’s temporary shelter opened and Cliff Avenue was vacated. But as the temporary shelter has been extended, and new locations for a multi-faceted shelter are discussed, the problems are again a focus for many.
No doubt, the problems exist. They have for a long time. As RCMP Superintendent Dave Fleugel has said, arresting people with addiction, untreated mental illness and who are living on the street does not help them. If it did, the Downtown Eastside would not exist as it does today.
Why such problems do exist there, and seem to in downtown Maple Ridge and Port Coquitlam and Whalley and Abbotsford and Chilliwack and Victoria, more so than in other communities throughout the Lower Mainland and B.C., is not known.
But shaming people, and the city, won’t help them. We understand that residents and businesses are scared. If more isn’t done to help the homeless and addicted, the problems will continue to persist.
Maple Ridge must define itself, not be labelled by others.
– Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows News