Mayor and province at odds over Maple Ridge homeless plan
A quiet tug-of-war is underway between the province and the City of Maple Ridge over a plan to house dozens of homeless people in a modular housing complex.
Mayor Mike Morden didn’t hold back Monday morning when asked by reporters about the province’s recently-announced plan to house some of the city’s homeless in a 51 unit supportive housing complex on Burnett Street just off the Lougheed highway.
When asked if he supports the province’s plan, he said simply, “I do not.”
Morden is focused on more comprehensive drug-treatment services in place for the homeless in the community, saying the issue is “primarily a fentanyl problem."
“What we do want for people in addicted and compromised positions in their live to ensure they get treatment services [like] detox, as well as long-term recovery programs,” Morden said. “Because that’s going to move them forward in their lives, as opposed to putting them behind four walls and leaving them there.”
He says he’s working with city staff to quash the construction of modular housing for the 51 “temporary supportive homes” on Burnett Street, which will house many of the people who had been living at the now dismantled “Anita Place” homeless camp.
But the housing minister is standing firm with the plan, despite protesters showing up with signs opposing “low barrier shelters” and proclaiming “harm reduction doesn’t work.”
“The community's waited a real long time [on a solution] and we just need to get moving on this," Housing Minister Selina Robinson told CTV News. “The key here is [the plan] comes with supports to make sure people are successful in their housing, they can access the kind of treatment and counselling supports they need and we're seeing tremendous success around the province."
She noted that Mental Health and addictions minister, Judy Darcy, is involved, bringing in “a number of treatment options.” Robinson insisted the approach works.
“We have an evidence-based plan here, that when people have housing it supports all of those treatment options,” she said. “It's a critical element of treatment."
Morden made the comments at a housing announcement in Maple Ridge where Prime Minister Justin Trudeau met with a Maple Ridge couple looking to buy their first home, as Trudeau touted some of the first-time-home buyer benefits unveiled in last week’s federal budget.
When asked about the homeless issue in the community and the role the federal government could play with funding, Trudeau responded: “It's not for the federal government to determine what is best for a particular neighbourhood or a particular community -- but it is up for us to be partners on the plans and projects of people like the mayor have for their communities."
While Morden exchanged a few words with Trudeau at the event, the mayor says he hasn’t had a chance to discuss any of the ongoing issues in the community with the prime minister.
Morden says he has asked for a meeting with B.C. Premier John Horgan to discuss the city’s needs. He says he was disappointed with the province’s plan to move forward with the Burnett Street project without an endorsement from the city.
Construction on the new supportive housing project being built by the province is expected to start next month. It will be operated by Coast Mental Health once complete.