Editor, The News:
Re: City wants Sally Ann out (The News, Aug. 26).
The Salvation Army has been in Maple Ridge for a long time.
It does much more than feed the homeless population.
Many seniors rely on the meal program because its free.
I know the mayor has mentioned other services in town, such as the food bank and Meals on Wheels.
The food bank requires people to have identification and an address to get free food.
And Meals on Wheels is not free of charge.
Whereas the Sally Ann just feeds hungry people as they come in. For the Sally Ann, people are more than just a statistic.
The Salvation Army has been getting plenty of attention lately due to the apparent attack by the City of Maple Ridge. The city is using the Salvation Army as a scapegoat on the homelessness issue, which has been causing grief for years.
Now Mayor Nicole Read has promised the taxpayers she will solve this age-old social issue by closing the only shelter in town.
Other cities have been dealing with homelessness for a long time, but they did not attempt to run the Salvation Army out town to solve the issue.
This is just unacceptable behaviour and bad logic.
The Cliff Ave. issue was created by the city . When campers attempted to move elsewhere due to pressure from Cliff residents, they were moved back to Cliff Ave. by city staff members.
Why would the city want the homeless to camp illegally on Cliff Ave. if not to throw the Salvation Army under the bus?
If you have been following this story, you will know it was the mayor’s decision to move every homeless person and camp to Cliff Ave. Did the city consult with the residents of Cliff Ave. before moving everyone there?
The city also paid for portable toilets, cameras and security for the camp.
Now I hear the city is opening another shelter across the street to house 40 beds.
I cannot see how the new shelter will approach the issue any differently.
How will the city convince someone to sleep indoors if they are accustomed to sleeping outside?
We have this little thing called freedom in Canada. No one can be forced into treatment or shelter against their will.
A better solution may be to permit overnight camping somewhere away from residential areas and monitor campers with police, fire and city bylaws to ensure everyone is safe. The City of Victoria has allowed the homeless to camp in parks since 2008.
The bylaw dates back to a 2008 B.C. Supreme Court decision that said it was unconstitutional for Victoria to restrict overnight sleeping in parks if homeless shelter beds are full.
While the causes are complex, the solutions to homelessness may be simple: Homelessness may not be only a housing problem, but it is always a housing problem; housing is necessary, although sometimes not sufficient, to solve the problem of homelessness.
Policy changes are often criticized for punishing the poor instead of trying to solve the underlying problem.
The Salvation Army did not create the homeless problem in Maple Ridge.
Homelessness is a universal social issue.
And the Salvation Army was certainly not the architect of the Cliff Ave. camp debacle.
You can thank Mayor Read and council for that mess.