MAPLE RIDGE (NEWS 1130) — It’s been exactly one year since a contentious tent city in Maple Ridge was dismantled, and homelessness promises to be a major issue on the provincial campaign trail.
Both Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson and NDP Leader John Horgan spent some time in the suburb Thursday morning. For years, residents protested and counter-protested the presence and the potential solutions offered up to people who live on the streets.
While no political party has released a full platform, some statements released over the last few days show the parties posturing over the problem.
In September, 2019 Maple Ridge’s Anita Place, which at one point was home to some 200 people, was cleared with many of the remaining residents being moved into modular housing.
“If it was up to Andrew Wilkinson, there would still be a tent city in Maple Ridge,” reads a statement from the BC NDP.
“Homelessness in Maple Ridge skyrocketed by almost 50 per cent between 2014 and 2017 while Wilkinson sat at the cabinet table and watched it happen.”
The NDP says while the Liberal opposed modular housing, the government led by John Horgan championed it.
Meantime, Wilkinson has accused the NDP of “warehousing” homeless people by moving them out of parks and into hotels In Victoria and Vancouver amid the pandemic. He has said party policy on how a Liberal government would address the homelessness, housing affordabilty, and overdose crises will be released this week.
The 2020 homeless count for Maple Ridge found 114 people experiencing homelessness in Maple Ridge, down from 124 in 2017. However, the number of people who are “unsheltered” increased from 30 to 35.
The situation for former residents of the tent city who were moved into supportive housing can’t be neatly categorized as a success or a failure, according to Chris Bossley, a woman who has continued to communicate with the people who became her friends when they camped in her neighbourhood.
“The stories for everyone are different. People go into that housing at different points in their lives, and I think unfortunately there’s not a one-size-fits-all solution to homelessness because there’s so much more to it than just not being housed, just not having a roof over your head,” she says.
“I run into folks all the time that are living there and some of them like it, some of them not so much. Some of them seem to be doing very well, unfortunately, there are sometimes folks that I run into who I know were housed there who are now back living on the street because they didn’t adhere to the rules in the building.”
Bossley notes that while some people benefit from the programs and services available at supportive housing sites, others do not. She thinks a more effective solution would take into account the diverse, individual needs of residents. Mental health, substance use, trauma, and the lack of long-term affordable housing are all causes and consequences of homelessness that need to be addressed.
“We do need a place where we can take folks in, we then need to take the time to figure out what they really need to do well. We need to set them up to succeed. I feel like in many cases we’re setting folks up to fail in these situations,” she says.
Bossley says politicians pitching solutions for those currently living in encampments in Vancouver and Victoria will need to look beyond modular housing if they want to create lasting solutions that will work the diverse population of people who are currently without safe, secure shelter in this province.