Proposal is to put supportive housing and shelter building on Burnett Street. (THE NEWS/files)

People sound off about shelter in Maple Ridge

BC Housing though said it will follow the rezoning process

Maple Ridge council will have the final say on whether an 80-bed supportive housing complex and shelter is built at Burnett 11749 St., unless the province decides not to follow the rezoning process.

“The possibility exists,” Mayor Nicole Read said at Tuesday’s council meeting.

It’s possible the provincial government may not seek rezoning approval from the city in order to build the shelter. But that’s unlikely, she added.

“It’s track record to date is to always go through a rezoning process,” Read said.

B.C. Housing confirmed that it intends to seek rezoning.

Area residents crowded into council chambers, asking questions following the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing’s announcement last week that there will be 40 supportive-housing beds, and another 40 shelter beds in the building, which will be operated by Salvation Army Ridge Meadows Ministries.

But Read said she couldn’t comment until she had more information about the shelter.

Once a rezoning application is made, council can then look at the detailed proposal, she added.

“It’s after that point, council will debate the merits.”

Council doesn’t have enough information to decide on the merits of the location or how it will be operated, she added.

“I don’t want to give the public the idea that we are not fully, 100 per cent interested in hearing, in being persuaded by the public, because that is our job as elected officials, is to listen and to take some direction from the public,” Read said.

People peppered council with questions about the facility, although the city wasn’t informed of the location until the announcement.

James Penner wanted to know if the city basically supported the idea. But homeless shelters don’t help the community, he added.

“We need treatment centres and affordable housing. We don’t need homeless shelters.”

Kyle Lukacs said he’s lived in Maple Ridge his entire life.

“What’s happened to Maple Ridge in the last 15 years that Maple Ridge has gone from one homeless person to over 700? Where do we draw the line on the amount of housing projects that are going to be built and how many people we bring into our city?”

Read said homelessness is throughout Metro Vancouver, with a 30-per-cent increase the past year and 72 homeless camps.

“We have a burgeoning crisis,” she added.

“We have more people who are hitting the streets every day… As a local government, this gets downloaded on to us.”

Jodi Seminoff said residents haven’t been consulted.

“Nobody has given us options.”

Design work is about to start on the building, in consultation with the Salvation Army, which means the cost for construction hasn’t yet been determined. It’s not known how much more the Salvation Army will receive from B.C. Housing to run the shelter. The Salvation Army currently receives $1 million a year to run its current emergency shelter.

The operating model hasn’t been revealed yet, but it likely will be some version of low barrier, as is the case with the current Salvation Army.

The operating model “will be designed to ensure that people living on the street are brought inside, as the first step to recovery, is housing,” said B.C. Housing.

“The Salvation Army has deep roots in the community of Maple Ridge and will work closely with local partners, such as Fraser Health, the city, the intensive case management team and the RCMP to ensure safe and supportive programs are provided at the site,” it added.

Maple Ridge Coun. Gordy Robson wants to find out more information about how the new supportive housing complex and shelter will operate before he votes for it.

He doesn’t want a low-barrier shelter.

“It’s got to be based around recovery and health,” he said.

Petitions and protests are already happening against the new Salvation Army Ridge Meadows Ministries supportive housing and shelter.

A rally is planned for Saturday, Jan. 20, in Memorial Peace Park in Maple Ridge at 1 p.m.

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