We have to house the homeless

Fires and people shooting up aren’t good for business.

“In a time of drastic change, it is the learners who survive.” – Eric Hoffer.

 

The shadowy parkade on the edge of Memorial Peace Park is a favorite gathering place for Maple Ridge street people.

But, darkness doesn’t matter like it used to. The homeless, addicted, and mentally ill can be seen in daylight, sitting outside banks, coffee shops.

It wasn’t always that way. When I settled here 30 years ago, people didn’t wander streets, their possessions in shopping carts. There weren’t darkly-clad BOBS – boys on bikes – hauling garbage bags to bottle depots, or wasted souls punching the air while shouting obscenities. This drastic social change needs to be redressed if towns like ours are to survive.

In downtown residences, health care workers bathe seniors for bed, administer medication. Once, they weren’t forced to walk past addicts shooting up in the doorways. The job has changed.

“It’s not a safe area,” one worker told me. “Our vehicles are broken into. We never know what we’ll encounter.”

It’s folks struggling with a ‘dual diagnosis’.

“Just pitiful,” says this worker. “These people need support. They’re human beings.”

Dual diagnosis – addiction and mental illness – is the term used by drivers with West Ridge Security.

“It’s most of them,” one told me at the start of my ride-along, to learn about the street scene.

West Ridge Security patrols the commercial downtown for the Maple Ridge Business Improvement Association.

The parkade is our first stop.

“They’ll do drugs here, or just sleep,” says the driver. “Sometimes, someone builds a fire – to heat a can of beans, or stay warm. It’s dangerous. There’s a gas line here.”

Fires and people shooting up aren’t good for business. West Ridge moves street folk along to ease the problem for any one shop owner.  Usually this happens without argument, but sometimes, drivers are verbally abused, and often threatened, sometimes with knives.

We move onto 224th Street, down Dewdney Trunk Road to 228th Street, then south, along side streets and alleys before heading east on Lougheed Highway to another hot spot – the alley behind the bottle depot at the edge of the business district.

The homeless are everywhere with shopping carts, sitting on benches. The driver points out a man who talks to himself all day.

The area around 222nd Street and Selkirk Avenue attracts prostitutes. They move along when citizens complain, but come back.

On 224th St. again we check another alley. Behind a restaurant, the driver points out dumpsters.

“Another place you’ll find people doing drugs, or sleeping.”

There’s nobody here, but we find a man asleep on the commercial parking lot opposite the school board office on Brown Avenue.

“I told him it was warmer in the sun,” reports the driver, “and where he can get a better rest.”

“It’s a sad picture,” I suggest.

Mayor Nicole Read says she’s committed to find effective strategies to address homelessness and addiction as soon as possible.

“We’re seeing more property crime,” she told me, “hearing from residents about needles in parks. There are people who fear for their safety. We need to address that. It’s the reason we’ve enacted a task force.”

The task force includes Read, Couns. Bob Masse and Gordy Robson.

Daryll Pilgrim, co-chair of the local Housing Planning Table, said in a recent article that there’s “a wide range of disorders our city doesn’t have answers for right now.”

Answers for a town’s survival will demand drastic changes. We’ll have to house people locally and treat their mental illness at home because they’re not going anywhere.

The task force reports publicly Feb. 10.

 

– Jack Emberly is a retired teacher, local author and environmentalist.

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Pitt Meadows and Maple Ridge BC Winter Games athletes get sent off at Reppin’ the Ridge

Competitors gathered with coaches, parents, games representatives and local politicians

City has new leader for economic development

Wendy Dupley says millennials will like Maple Ridge

Maple Ridge artist overcomes brain injury through creativity

Michael Sawyer suffered a traumatic brain injury as a result of a traffic accident

Ridge Meadows RCMP team up with Port Coquitlam

Man facing four charges from three cities

Pipeline dispute: Tories put no-confidence motion on House of Commons agenda

Conservatives say they have no confidence in the Trudeau government to end the rail blockades

Galchenyuk nets shootout winner as Wild edge Canucks 4-3

Vancouver tied with Calgary for second spot in NHL’s Pacific Division

B.C.’s soda drink tax will help kids lose weight, improve health, says doctor

Dr. Tom Warshawski says studies show sugary drinks contribute to obesity

A&W employees in Ladysmith get all-inclusive vacation for 10 years of service

Kelly Frenchy, Katherine Aleck, and Muriel Jack are headed on all-expenses-paid vacations

B.C. mom’s complaint about ‘R word’ in children’s ministry email sparks review

In 2020, the ‘R’ word shouldn’t be used, Sue Robins says

B.C., federal ministers plead for meeting Wet’suwet’en dissidents

Scott Fraser, Carolyn Bennett says they can be in Smithers Thursday

UPDATE: TransLink gets injunction ahead of pipeline, Indigenous rights protest

The protest rally is in opposition to the Coastal GasLink and Trans Mountain pipeline projects

Province shows no interest in proposed highway between Alberta and B.C.

Province says it will instead focus on expanding the Kicking Horse Canyon to four lanes

Mysterious bang booms over Sumas Mountain once again

Police unsure of source, quarry companies say, ‘not us’

Most Read