Morden, in March, opposed modular homes on Royal Crescent. (THE NEWS/files)

News Views: The moralist

Maple Ridge doesn’t want any more low-barrier shelter beds.

Maple Ridge Mayor Mike Morden has stated that the city doesn’t want any more low-barrier shelter beds.

This as the city returns to Supreme Court next week to seek an injunction to allow it to enforce fire safety measures inside Anita Place Tent City, where there have been six unresolved fires since its inception 18 months ago, including two last month.

Closing tent city would be part of a community safety plan, on which Morden campaigned this past fall and is currently being developed.

Morden said he’s written to the province seeking confirmation that B.C. Housing money allocated to Maple Ridge is still available. He added that the city is “particularly interested in seniors and affordable housing.”

B.C. Housing, in 2016, promised $15 million to build a permanent shelter and supportive housing complex in Maple Ridge.

After sites for such at the Quality Inn and west along Lougheed Highway near Maple Ridge Cemetery were rejected after petitions and protests, the previous council, in May, rejected, at first reading, a B.C. Housing proposal to build an 85-unit supportive housing and shelter complex on Burnett Street and 117th Avenue.

Morden, when president of the chamber of commerce, started a petition opposing the purchase of the former motel on Lougheed Highway for long-term housing. He also started the Action Maple Ridge group, which opposed the other site near the cemetery and rejects the low-barrier model, which, as the Sally Ann learned, is a funding requirement of B.C. Housing. Morden further questioned the modular home facility on Royal Crescent, a low-barrier facility.

The low-barrier model is part of the federal Housing First initiative, a researched tool in solving chronic and episodic homelessness while reducing pressure on other emergency services. Permanent housing, complemented by the provision of services, helps to assist clients to sustain their housing and work towards recovery and reintegration into the community, according to the Government of Canada.

We know the moralist arguments against the Housing First strategy. Morden said the city isn’t interested in adding low-barrier shelter beds as “we already provide three times our regional share.” Maple Ridge, he added, is interested in a model that includes concepts from The Path Forward report produced last year by the B.C. Centre on Substance Use, which recommends adding detox and long-term recovery programs.

Basically, it promotes abstinence and 12-step programs with help from those with lived experience and surveys.

More detox and recovery beds would be welcome, but people have to be willing or accepted into such programs. Detox doesn’t work for all, and can be harmful to some. And those beds also have to be funded. That could take convincing, and time.

So what happens in the meantime?

Maple Ridge had 27 overdose deaths last year and 33 the one before. Illicit drug overdoses were the cause behind 1,380 deaths in B.C. 2018, one short of the record set the year before, according to the Coroners Service.

Addiction is a disease, and is complicated when coupled with mental health issues.

Those in that situation need more help than hope.

At least now we know where the mayor stands.

– Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows News

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