Maple Ridge Mayor Nicole Read’s recent statement that she knew all along that it would take five years to provide supportive housing in Maple Ridge sounds a lot like someone covering her own behind.
I can recall her campaign promises to deal with homelessness within a few months of taking office, but my memory is totally blank on any accompanying statements or predictions concerning a permanent supportive housing solution. Nobody I have spoken to on the subject recalls anything either about it taking five years to provide supportive housing.
As a side note, it’s interesting to consider the mayor’s version of the timeline involved in developing a purpose-built supportive housing project.
According to the mayor, it will take six months to find a suitable site, three additional years to design the facility and to gain all necessary approvals and, finally, up to 20 months to build the facility.
That seems like a long time to accomplish something all the bureaucrats and government staff involved are already in substantial agreement on.
The funding agreement on the ‘temporary’ shelter next door to the KFC is supposed to expire at the end of June. Plans are in the works to house those remaining, but not all at one site.
Could that lead to another tent city?
The city is amending its bylaw, following B.C. court decisions regarding homeless camps in Victoria and Abbotsford, to try and prevent them in certain public parks and spaces.
At the very least, campers will have to pack up their tents by 9 a.m. each day.
To get back to the subject of supportive housing, the entire matter has sprung from the extremely flawed Housing First concept, which is viewed in some quarters as the one-size-fits-all solution to homelessness.
The idea that you can cram 60, 70 or more people suffering from mental health issues, alcoholism or drug addiction into a single centrally located facility and expect anything other than failure or, at best, minimal success, is ludicrous.
I have asked a number of times for the proponents of this illogical approach to cite even one reasonably successful example of this model operating anywhere in the Lower Mainland, including Maple Ridge.
To date I have not received a reply.
To begin with, if success is the goal, those legitimately seeking a way out of their addiction, alcoholism or other problems will never succeed when they are living and constantly associating with others who have no interest in doing anything other than what they have always done.
Placing all these people together under the same roof is like tying an albatross around their necks. Separate facilities for those dealing with separate problems is not only important,it is the only realistic way to offer hope to people seeking positive change.
Others who are satisfied with their irresponsible and criminal lifestyles should be housed somewhere else, or, because they are all breaking the law, they should be apprehended and charged and, if convicted, sent to jail.
The low-barrier approach is supposed to keep the entrance requirements to supportive housing or shelters as low as possible in order to not discourage people in need of services from accessing qualified help.
In too many cases, providing shelter or housing for addicts in the downtown area simply makes it easier for them to access the many stores and businesses they victimize through shoplifting and other crimes as a means to support their criminal drug habits.
The twin devils of confusion and inaction reign supreme while people in desperate need of a wide variety of services are denied appropriate help and directions.
Like morally corrupt Nero in ancient Rome, the province, city council and various bureaucracies fiddle while the community burns.
– Sandy Macdougall is a retired journalist and former city councillor.