Homelessness has been a serious problem in Maple Ridge for more than a decade.
It was just prior to the Salvation Army shelter opening in the fall of 2003 that a camp of about a dozen homeless people was displaced from a treed area, now a grassy park, behind the gas station next to the Haney Hotel.
A majority of them set up camp off the Haney Bypass, just down the hill from where the Salvation Army was about to open its new emergency shelter.
They were pushed from that area, too, as the bush was cleared for the apartments that stand there now, and homeless camps have been erected and dismantled all over Port Haney and other parts of the downtown area since.
The remaining treed lot just off the bypass has continued to be a popular camping spot for the homeless, but last week many more moved there and took over Cliff Avenue, drawing the attendion of RCMP and Maple Ridge Mayor Nicole Read.
A few of the campers have said to others that bylaw officers told them to move there, that they wouldn’t be pushed along.
The mayor denied that, but then on Facebook said that moving homeless people along is masking the problem. She also quesitoned the viability of the Salvation Army as a service provider to the homeless.
If the Salvation Army can’t provide shelter to those in the camp, Read said, other steps have to be looked at.
The Salvation Army has not been consulted with by the mayor’s new homelessness task force, which Read promised during the fall election to create within 60 days of taking office. It aims to get people off the street and get them the help they need.
Surely, no one expected the Salvation Army to end homelessness, only to help, which it has. But the problem of homelessness is larger than the Sally Ann, and isn’t unique to Maple Ridge.
We are not the first to suggest that efforts and contributions from all levels of government are needed.
Details of the plan from the city’s homelessness task force will be released May 21. We have no expectations, but believe more needs to be done to reclaim Maple Ridge’s downtown and help those seeking shelter. The city isn’t going to solve homelessness on its own, but it can take greater ownership of the problem, and after more than a decade of little to no improvement, that is all we can hope for.
– The News