Daycare owner has worries of shelter 'nightmare' for Maple Ridge site
'We'd have to close,' said Lyanne Alexander who worries about needles on the ground
Maple Ridge business owners are pushing to stop a social housing project claiming the so-called "homeless shelter" will drive away clients, especially the owner of a daycare next to the site.
Lyanne Alexander says the vacant lot beside her business is already a problem that would only be magnified if a project aimed to house 100 or more people in the core of Maple Ridge goes ahead.
"It's not so bad now, though we do have needles left in our parking lot," said the owner of the Meadow Ridge Centre for Childcare, which is only separated from the lot by a line of trees.
The odd time she's had toys stolen, but at most she's only seen five or six people camping in the lot.
Alexander has seen the impact on the community of the 3030 Gordon Project in Coquitlam B.C. and says she does not want that near her daycare.
"It's just a nightmare," said Alexander.
"Businesses find needles all over their parking lot — 60 to 70 a day. There's people tracking back and forth ... leaving garbage and trash. A lot of theft and unsafe activities happen."
Alexander is not against supports for people recovering from drug use or in need of housing but disagrees with this location.
"Nobody ever wants it on their street."
"We'd have to close. We've got feedback from families that if it goes through, they'll go elsewhere. I don't blame them. If I had children here, I'd do the same," said Alexander who cares for more than 55 children at her Lougheed Highway daycare.
She and dozens of others do not understand why the city does not locate the project to existing sites in more rural parts of Maple Ridge — such as the unused buildings near 248 Street which are part of the Alouette Correctional Centre for Women or another site near 272 Street.
Alexander says it makes no sense to place the site so close to the centre of Maple Ridge where the temptation to drink or use drugs is so close.
On Aug 8 the city announced an agreement to buy a property at 21375 Lougheed Highway for potential use as a $15-million interim and long-term social housing facility, managed by B.C. Housing.
This site is four blocks away from the Quality Inn, an old proposed site, which also met with criticism.
The newer proposal is aimed at an empty lot already frequented by homeless and drug-addicted people. But locals complain a social housing project will only make the problem worse.
Petitioners envision the grounds littered with syringes and condoms — or worse.
But city staff say the proposal is part of a social housing model that would be managed by staff on site, so if anything, it would improve the current situation.
The initial plan includes 30 shelter beds, plus 30 transition beds and another 30 beds for winter emergencies.
Earlier this year, the city said it was purchasing the land for $1-million to build an interim, then permanent location to replace a 40-person shelter currently run by the Raincity Housing and Support Society.
Maple Ridge Mayor Nicole Read says the proposed project is not an emergency shelter, but a long-term supportive housing facility that could potentially include a shelter component.
"We're in very early days right now, so there needs to be time for the public consultations to roll out and for us to be able to hear from all citizens," Read said.
Read says the location was selected by city staff because they felt it would have the least impact on the surrounding community.
"We still feel that this is a good site and will have the lowest impact," she said. "There are businesses beside it that have raised concerns, and we'll be working with them."
Read was not able to say what specific mitigation strategies would look like, saying that would be handled by B.C .Housing.
Despite the reassurances, more than 600 people have signed a petition to try to stop the proposed project.
"This property is immediately adjacent to a daycare, a veterinary hospital and in the vicinity of hundreds of families. Wrong solution, wrong location," reads the Change.org site urging people to join the fight.
"Do we really need the problem of the addicts and "ladies of the evening" doing their thing on some loved one's final resting place in the cemetery and then leaving their "wares" behind?" wrote Barbara Stevens of Maple Ridge.