Hundreds of Maple Ridge residents rallied Saturday in opposition to the planned conversion of a vacant hotel into a homeless shelter.

The provincial government is in the process of buying the Quality Inn Hotel along Lougheed Highway near 217 Street for $5.5 million. The facility would then be run by B.C. Housing as what's termed a permanent low barrier shelter — meaning addicts would be able to use drugs on the premises. 

That has area residents concerned about what it will mean for their community. 

"It's going to enable them. It's going to make it easier for them to do what they do and continue doing it," said area resident Sandra Trainer. "It's not a solution."

Other residents say the province should have done a better job consulting with them on the plan. 

"There has been no process for public input. No impact study," said Caroline Madsen. "And, no neighbourhood consultation."

Ernie Daykin

Former mayor Ernie Daykin says homelessness has been a long-standing problem in Maple Ridge. (CBC)

Former Maple Ridge mayor Ernie Daykin says homelessness has been a longstanding problem in the city, but has worsened since the closure of the Riverview Hospital in 2012.

"This is an important issue. not only for Maple Ridge but for other communities. It's a problem and challenge that's been 25 years in the making," said Daykin.

Last summer, a homeless camp set up by squatters led to eviction notices. A temporary shelter was set up downtown but is set to close this June. 

No city councillors were among the hundreds who turned out at yesterday's rally. 

B.C. Housing has committed to holding a community forum on the matter, but a date has yet to be announced. 

with files from Deborah Goble