Maple Ridge could be the next community that will see temporary modular homes to help deal with the homeless crisis, but housing activists warn the problem is bigger than it seems.
The NDP government has pledged $600 million for 2,000 modular suites across the province, with some already earmarked for Vancouver, Surrey and Smithers.
Maple Ridge Mayor Nicole Read said discussions are underway with the province about bringing the units to her community.
However, without a renewed focus on mental health and addiction issues, Read said the new units won’t be enough.
“I know that without all of those things being done in my city we are going to continue to see people continue to hit the streets,” Read said.
“So you can put the housing on the ground, but at the end of the day if the other pieces aren’t there you will continue to have camps in addition to the housing, and I think that’s what everybody is worried about.”
August 2016: New Maple Ridge homeless shelter causes controversy, again
Much of Maple Ridge’s homeless population currently lives in a homeless camp known as “Anita’s place,” which has been at the centre of a heated debate in the city.
According to camp founder Tracy Scott, the government’s official estimate of 124 homeless people in the community doesn’t come close to telling the whole story.
“We went out into the bush area, to all the campsites that we know,” Scott said.
“I know pretty much all the street people here, and we found over 200 homeless people.”
May 2017: Maple Ridge Mayor targeted with threats and harassment
The tent city has divided the community.
On one side are community groups who allege the city’s homeless are behind an increase in crime and disorder in the area.
On the other is homeless campers who say they’ve been the targets of threats and vigilantism.
Earlier this year, Read herself took a leave of absence from city council amid personal threats believed to be linked to the controversy over the city’s homeless population.
Pressure has been building on the homeless issue in Maple Ridge for several years, with campers forced out of another tent city on Cliff Avenue in 2015, and subsequent heated public meetings over the establishment of a temporary shelter.
A pair of locations to provide supportive housing for the homeless, one in a former Quality Inn, were both proposed by BC Housing but axed by the province last year amid public opposition.
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