News Views: Square One

With Friday's housing announcement in Maple Ridge, what has really changed?

The temporary homeless shelter in downtown Maple Ridge, which opened in fall 2015 as a means to clear the camp on Cliff Avenue, could close on March 31, after twice having its operation extended.

In its place, the provincial government will provide funding for 30 extra spaces at the Salvation Army Ridge Meadows Ministries, local Liberal MLAs Doug Bing and Marc Dalton announced on Friday, Feb. 17, along with a host of other initiatives, some aimed at seniors and youth.

But those hardest to house, the ones who remained at the temporary shelter because no other option could be found for them, will be able to move to the Salvation Army, which will operate as a low-, but not no-barrier facility.

And a curfew will be instituted.

This arrangement will continue for at least six months, past the May provincial election.

No location has been set for a permanent supportive housing facility for the homeless, despite an outstanding promise from the province to provide $15 million for such a facility, or even for a temporary site with modular units, as was previously discussed. That, despite months, or longer, of searching.

How convenient for our MLAs.

As they seek re-election, they won’t have to contend with petitions or protests, as they did with the two locations proposed before – at the Quality Inn and by the Maple Ridge cemetery.

Funding for the Iron Youth Safe House was also announced on Friday, after it lost federal funding several years ago.

But what took so long? It doesn’t exist anymore. And the MLAs, we have learned, were mistaken about that funding.

The province will provide $252,000 for up to 40 rent subsidies for the new intensive case management team to ensure access to affordable housing with dedicated supports. We hope that helps, but have those who would qualify been identified yet?

Alouette Heights also has a new operator.

But nothing else has been built, yet.

So what has really changed?

Alouette Heights remains open. No one knows what’s happening with the youth shelter. The temporary shelter is closing. Those staying there now will be able to move over to the Salvation Army shelter, which was the only one in the city prior to the Cliff Avenue camp. The Salvation Army shelter will have fewer rules than before, but more than the one operated by RainCity.

Maple Ridge is back where it started.

At least the weather is warming.

– Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows News