Maple Ridge homeless camp compels city to create task force
Maple Ridge Mayor says city needs more funding from provincial and federal governments
Maple Ridge is forming a task force to help address the challenges facing the city's homeless population.
"We have been watching ourselves do a lot of finger pointing," said Maple Ridge Mayor Nicole Read. "We are in an absolutely impossible situation right now...we are seeing them fall through the cracks all of the time because of inadequacies in funding and inadequacies in services.
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At the heart of the situation is a homeless camp on Cliff Avenue, located near the Salvation Army Caring Place.
"Our usual method is to just disperse the camp and move people along, but that's not providing any long term solution and it's costing municipal taxpayers' money," said Read.
"Waking up every morning knowing that bylaw [officers] are going to arrive at 7:30 to move you along is not necessarily helping them to understand the circumstances that need to be put in place for them to actually see a new possibility in their lives."
Read says many people living in the camp don't fit the traditional shelter model and need low-barrier housing.
"The shelter model works really well if you are someone not dealing with addiction per se. But when you are somebody who is adapted to dealing with living outside, you are dealing with mental health issues, you are dealing with addiction issues, the shelter is not meant to be a longer term solution."
The city has been speaking with camp representatives in the hopes of reaching an amiable solution.
"We are trying to work with everybody. We are being respectful in approaching our homeless citizens in a way that is steeped in dignity while at the same time responding to the expectations that are very real and very understandable from the residents along Cliff Avenue," said Read.
Right now the city is currently working with the Salvation Army to find an immediate short term solution, but Read hopes to work with other levels of government to establish a long term fix.
"We are going to build a really strong business case that we are taking forward to the provincial and federal governments to say 'Look we've done everything we reasonably can as a city to address this problem, to understand where our needs are [and] this is what we are going to need to deal with the problem on the ground in our community.'"
To hear the full interview with Mayor Nicole Read, listen to the audio labelled Maple Ridge homeless camp