Homeless advocates hold a banner outside the RainCity temporary shelter after it closed its doors at the end of May. (THE NEWS/files)

News Views: Whoville

Provincial government provided funding to reopen a second building to house homeless people in Maple Ridge.

A day after it snowed, the day before the first day of winter, and just before Christmas, the provincial government provided funding to reopen a second building to house homeless people in Maple Ridge.

RainCity Housing formerly operated a temporary, 40-bed homeless shelter in the former Sleep Country building at 22239 Lougheed Hwy., across the road from the Salvation Army Ridge Meadows Ministries, which will now run the second building.

The RainCity shelter had opened in fall of 2015 to clear the homeless camp on Cliff Avenue. Much was made of RainCity’s low-barrier approach, and that facility closed in May, just before the provincial election.

At the same time, Anita Place Tent City was erected on city property at the foot of 223rd Street.

The city sought a court injunction to clear Anita Place, but has since backed off and is working with the organizers of the camp, Alliance Against Displacement, to improve safety conditions there, specifically with regards to in-tent heaters.

People at the camp initially balked at the opening of the second shelter, claiming they rather camp outside than go there, while Coun. Tyler Shymkiw complained that B.C. Housing didn’t consult with the city about opening it.

We’d call him Grinch, except that if homeless people at Anita Place won’t go to the facilities provided, during the coldest days, how desperate are they?

Couldn’t they reside in the temporary facility while governments continue to pursue a more permanent solution?

B.C. Housing has a lease for the building until March. So why did it close?

Regardless, the second shelter has 25 beds, a temporarily expansion of the existing extreme weather response shelter at the Salvation Army building, which could close as the province plans to expand the Haney Bypass.

The province is still offering $15 million for a supportive housing complex in Maple Ridge, and was looking at as many as 20 locations on which to build it or place modular units.

In the meantime, we are back to having two homeless shelters, although just one operator.

That is a step forward, not back.

Homeless people in Maple Ridge have another place to go, if they want.

Those who don’t can camp outside and continue to protest.

But it’s not 1957 anymore. It’s almost 2018, and in the end, even the Grinch’s heart grew.

Some of ours need to, as well, and our leaders need to come to their collective senses, get together and give Maple Ridge a permanent solution to what has become this city’s shame.

– Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows News

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