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51 supportive housing units for Maple Ridge homeless campers not enough: Pivot Legal Society

Last Updated Mar 20, 2019 at 11:08 pm PDT

An example of supportive modular housing. (Source: B.C. Ministry of Housing)

A lawyer from Pivot Legal Society says 51 supportive housing units in Maple Ridge isn't enough to solve homelessness

Anna Cooper says the move is a step in the right direction, but won't house the entire homeless population

Supportive housing has been criticized as being too restrictive on tenants

MAPLE RIDGE (NEWS 1130) — The provincial government is building 51 homes for people at the Maple Ridge Homeless camp — but Anna Cooper from Pivot Legal Society says it’s not enough.

While she says it’s a move in the right direction, the number of units doesn’t reflect the actual need for housing in the area.

RELATED: Province will build 51 supportive homes for Anita Place campers in Maple Ridge

In reality, she says there could be more than 200 homeless people, and with only 51 units, many people will still have nowhere to go.

“We can’t stop there. We want to be clear that there will be many homeless people in the Ridge Meadows areas that will still be on the streets,” she says.

But not only is the number far too low, she says making the units supportive housing isn’t the right move either. While supportive housing works for some, she says many of the residents don’t need the kinds of restrictions that come along with the housing model.

“They want housing like anybody else where they can live their lives like regular renters,” she says. “Just because they’re poor and their welfare won’t cover normal rental rates, that they shouldn’t be forced into a model that is far more restrictive where they’re policed on a level that no one else is.”

Supportive housing would mean tenants aren’t given the same protections as other renters under the Residential Tenancy Act.

RELATED: Not ‘collaborative’: Homeless advocates feel shut out of Maple Ridge housing discussions

While the specific rules of this new building haven’t been released, similar housing models have imposed rules some residents may not be happy about, including: not allowing guests to stay overnight, not allowing visitors after 9 or 10 p.m., not allowing tenants to live with a partner, and not allowing tenants to live with children under a certain age.

She says many of the tenants have been forced into homelessness because the welfare rates are so low they can’t afford to rent a regular apartment.

“They want to have control over their unit, they want to be able to house their friends, they want to be able to come and go at the hours the rest of us can,” she says. “They just want normal affordable housing with dignity.”

Cooper also notes that many are glad to have the ‘supports’ of supportive housing — like job training, medical support, and counselling — but it’s the restrictions that are problematic. She says tenants want control over their own units, just like any other renter has.

She says the ministry of housing needs to sit down and talk with the local homeless community to find out what they really want and need.

The provincial government announced the 51 units on Wednesday, saying the City of Maple Ridge’s plans to address homelessness were not enough.

City of Maple Ridge “troubled” by provincial plan

Maple Ridge Mayor Mike Morden said in a release today that he was troubled by the ‘arbitrary decision’ by the province to build 51 supportive units.

Morden did not respond to a request for an interview, and has ignored or refused many previous attempts by NEWS 1130 for an interview about Anita Place and housing plans for the city’s homeless population.

In a press release, Morden says the “ultimatum” to develop a housing plan caught him off guard.

“I am troubled by this arbitrary decision made without significant dialogue on the City’s Social Housing Plan recommendations. Our expectation was that City and Provincial staff would work through a process together, gather the facts, overcome obstacles and make recommendations to address the immediate and long term needs in our community,” he says in the release.

“Our Council has not rejected any housing proposals from the Province. We were surprised at the ultimatum to develop a Social Housing Plan with less than a week’s notice, however we rolled up our sleeves and delivered a workable plan that reflects our first hand knowledge of the situation here in Maple Ridge.”