British Columbia

Maple Ridge aims to cut Salvation Army shelter contract

Maple Ridge has asked B.C. Housing to end its contract with the city's Salvation Army branch because its shelter doesn't provide adequate services for the city's burgeoning homeless population, according to the mayor.

Mayor says the shelter doesn't meet the needs of the city's homeless population

A homeless camp with more than a dozen tents has sprung up behind a Salvation Army in Maple Ridge in May. (Farrah Merali/CBC)

Maple Ridge has asked B.C. Housing to end its contract with the city's Salvation Army branch because its shelter doesn't provide adequate services for the city's burgeoning homeless population, according to the mayor.

"We need to make sure that every dollar that comes into this community is effective and has a positive impact," said Maple Ridge Mayor Nicole Read.

"We aren't saying no shelter. We're just saying not that provider."

The city's needs around homelessness have taken centre court since a homeless camp located behind the Salvation Army on Cliff Avenue appeared in May. 

'Happy to hear of it'

The mayor acknowledged the homeless have long been camping out near the shelter, and people who live at the camp told CBC News that many of them go there to get a meal and have other basic needs fulfilled.

However, for many residents and businesses in the area, the idea that the shelter might disappear comes as a welcome relief.

"I'm happy to hear of it," said Joanne Pinkney, who runs the Maple Ridge Pool and Spa across the street from the homeless camp.

"It draws people to the area and they don't leave."

Pinkney said business has dropped because of the camp; she said the people who live there often block the driveway and harass her customers. 

"They do pretty much anything they feel like," she said. 

Not meeting homeless needs

Read said since the camp has sprung up, outreach workers have been canvassing its residents to assess their needs. 

"We know that this population has been in and out of that shelter over a long period of time, not successfully connecting to the services and housing that they actually need," said Read.

Those services include access to health care and more permanent housing.

Read explained that one of the toughest challenges with the city's homeless population is that many are dealing with addiction and mental health issues, and the Salvation Army shelter is not meeting their needs.

Read said since the outreach team began working with the people at the homeless camp a few weeks ago, 28 of them have been moved into housing.

The city has since asked B.C. Housing to terminate its contract with the Salvation Army, which ends in March 2017, so it can put those funds towards a shelter with better services. 

"We're not looking to do this overnight. We want to work with B.C. Housing to have a new model," she said. 

It's unclear what would happen to the 26-bed shelter if the contract ends because the Salvation Army still owns the building, whether or not it receives funding from B.C. Housing.

The Salvation Army shelter in Maple Ridge has been in place for 12 years. 

With files from Richard Zussman and Farrah Merali


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