Sidewinder: Is homelessness now solved?

The beat goes on, the beat goes on. Drums keep pounding a rhythm to the brain. La de da de de, la de da de da.

Sonny and Cher and many others recorded The Beat Goes On. It was a big hit in the 1970s for many of those groups but the iconic tune is about to enjoy renewed popularity with Mayor Nicole Read’s year end report.

Read is claiming she had success in 2015 in dealing with the homeless problem in downtown Maple Ridge.

‘Drums keep pounding a rhythm to the brain’

Let’s look at reality. Read campaigned in 2014, amongst other things, on a promise to solve homelessness.

La de da de de, la de da de da

Sure enough, 30 or 40 people were moved from Cliff Avenue homeless camp this fall into the temporary Lougheed Highway shelter, next door to KFC.

Almost everyone of the Cliff Avenue tent dwellers brought their drug and alcohol abuse problems with them to the shelter which was described as a ‘a low barrier/harm reduction’ model.

The drug- and alcohol-dependent folks are apparently allowed to continue their destructive habits without reprercussions.

It’s a matter of debate whether this approach works in terms of helping the addicts escape their deadly lifestyles; however, judging by the non-impact of Read’s directions on the rest of the neighourhood, the plan is a complete and utter failure.

Drug addiction, drug peddling, prostitution, major and minor crimes, violence, drug overdoses and the accompanying social costs have continued unabated in the area.

We still find used condoms and other detritus of the sex/drug trades on our lawns and in our stairwells.

Cliff Avenue residents might feel some relief but residents on the north side of the Lougheed Highway feel betrayed and have only witnessed the further degradation of their neighbourhood.

Read claims the city’s efforts have resulted in 77 formerly homeless people being housed.

Thanks a lot, Your Worship. Virtually everyone of them, including the residents of the ‘temporary’ shelter, are still in the same neighbourhood.

One of the single largest effects of Read’s initiative is the steadily declining market value of properties in the general area around the shelter.

Nobody at city hall wants to publicly discuss the real costs of coping with the homeless problem but you can be sure that, when police, ambulance, fire department, bylaw enforcement, legal fees, outreach workers wages and operating costs of the temporary shelter are totalled up, the real cost for dealing with this issue in 2015 must be approaching or exceeding $2 million.

Seldom more than a day or two goes by without the attendance of emergency services personnel at the shelter.

The deal for the temporary shelter expires in March but no longer does anybody believe that fairy tale.

If there has been any real progress in schemes to establish a permanent homeless shelter in Maple Ridge, city hall is suspiciously silent on the subject.

Read has also critized the Salvation Army shelter which still seems to be providing cold weather refuge to homeless people.

With huge capital spending plans on the horizon for the coming several years, it will become impossible for Read to live up to all of her campaign of homeless promises and subsequent rhetoric about the success of her initiatives.

By now, you know how it goes:

The beat goes on, the beat goes on.



Sandy Macdougall is a retired journalist and former city councillor.