British Columbia

Maple Ridge green-lights homeless shelter for another 9 months

'In the Lower Mainland, it's just so hard; it's so unaffordable to live anywhere'

'In the Lower Mainland, it's just so hard; it's so unaffordable to live anywhere'

A homeless camp that sprang up behind the Salvation Army in Maple Ridge was dismantled in favour of a temporary homeless shelter which has just been granted a nine-month extension while the city seeks a longer term solution. (Farrah Merali/CBC)

Maple Ridge is working to deal with a growing homelessness problem it's been battling since squatters were evicted from a camp in the city last year.

In October, Rain City Housing set up a temporary shelter for 40 homeless people in an empty mattress store. It was suppose to have closed by now, but at the end of June, the city gave it the green light to stay open for another nine months.

"In the Lower Mainland, it's just so hard, it's so unaffordable to live anywhere," said Bill Briscall with Rain City Housing.

At a city meeting Monday, councilors shared concerns about the shelter's extension over loitering, safety and littering issues. 

"I think people want to have some control over what happens in their neighbourhood and they have concerns," Briscall said.

He said businesses, residents, the city, the RCMP and B.C. Housing are working together to tackle complaints that may arise and to find ways for people in the shelter to volunteer in the community.

"So that there is very little impact on the community and the folks in the shelter can really get involved in the community in a positive way," he said.

The City of Maple Ridge is also hatching a plan for a more permanent shelter with $15 million from the province.

Wendy McCormick, the city's recreation director, said once the nine-month extension for the temporary shelter is up, another one will be built. 

"We're working with B.C. Housing to find an interim shelter that will be made with modular units and those will be in place while a permanent shelter is being built."

At Monday's city council meeting, Mayor Nicole Read also pushed forward the notion of a regional mayors summit to deal with outstanding questions surrounding Greater Vancouver's homeless crisis.

So far, the city has received support letters from Richmond, Port Coquitlam and New Westminster with other letters endorsing the summit still coming in. 

Maple Ridge city council is now looking for funding and a location for the summit.