Province buys land for homeless shelter in Maple Ridge, B.C.
But advocates criticize the gesture as window dressing
A new homeless shelter is planned for Maple Ridge, B.C., a community that has shown hostility to the idea in the past.
But according to a spokesperson for a long-running tent city there — Anita Place — the purchase will do nothing for the more than 100 homeless people living there.
The provincial government announced Thursday it had purchased a section of land in Maple Ridge for $3.6 million to be used for approximately 40 new supportive housing units and relocation of up to 40 shelter beds from the Salvation Army shelter.
It also announced $15 million in new funding for rental housing aimed at seniors and low-income families.
And while Maple Ridge Mayor Nicole Read is applauding the move to buy 11749 and 11761 Burnett Street, she knows homelessness is a contentious issue in her city.
"We've had a lot of really significant hiccups along the way with the Liberal government," she told On The Coast host Gloria Macarenko.
"This is the latest in a line of proposals that has come forward so we're hoping to see this move ahead," she said.
"We've been waiting two years on this and that's a really long time for people who are outside in the cold to be waiting. This can't happen fast enough."
The first one of those hiccups, Read said, was a proposed low-barrier shelter that was scrapped after community opposition and government cancelling the plan.
The second was a temporary shelter that when closed was supposed to be followed by a more permanent solution but which never materialized.
Listen to the full interview:
Health concerns behind opposition
Read says despite vocal opposition from some community groups to homeless shelters in the past, she hopes this project will be different.
She says the concerns in the past have been about health care outcomes and whether addiction treatments will work or if addicted people will simply continue to negatively impact the community.
"It doesn't seem to me that anyone in Maple Ridge is averse to helping people who've hit the streets," she said. "We really did have a vitriolic group, but aside from that smaller group, many many concerned citizens have a lot of questions about health care outcomes."
She says she encouraged the province to reach out to the community and explain what will be going on at the shelter before acquiring the site.
She also says the public will have a chance to express concerns during the rezoning process for the site.
But the advocacy group that started the Anita Place tent city says the commitment falls far short of what it's asking for: 200 units of temporary modular housing and 200 units of permanent social housing.
"What's so painful about it is it's really within reach," said Ivan Drury, a spokesperson for Alliance Against Displacement.
"All that's required is 200 units of emergency modular housing to be set up right away while the government constructs 200 units of social housing that people can move out of that temporary housing into as soon as it's finished construction."
The group is also upset the 40 new units were supportive housing units, saying the supportive housing model is "an institutional model of government housing where tenants give up their tenancy rights, privacy, and autonomy" in exchange for shelter.
The province expects the shelter announced Thursday will be completed in the spring of 2019.
With files from Brenna Rose CBC Radio One's On The Coast