Dozens of families, seniors and concerned residents showed up at a vacant lot in Maple Ridge on Saturday to protest the provincial government’s plan to build a new facility for the homeless.
The province said it is investing around $3.6 million to purchase property in the 11000-block of Burnett Street for a proposed project that would include approximately 40 new supportive housing units and relocation of up to 40 shelter beds.
The Salvation Army Ridge Meadows Ministries will move its shelter, currently located at 22188 Lougheed Highway, to the new site.
WATCH: Mixed reaction to homeless plan in Maple Ridge
With schools and a seniors centre located near the site on Burnett Street, some residents are concerned about the safety of children and the elderly. They’re also worried about petty crime.
“I don’t necessarily think it’s about a roof over their heads and clothing. A lot of them are looking for drugs and alcohol, cigarettes,” one resident told Global News. “Unless someone is going to supply them with that as well, they’re still going to be looking to steal from everybody in this neighbourhood.”
Over 100 people are believed to be living in a makeshift campground in Maple Ridge called Anita’s Place.
Homeless advocate Ivan Drury said more needs to be done to address homelessness in the area.
“We need actually 200 units of housing to end homelessness, not a 40-unit smoke show,” he said.
WATCH: New plan to address homelessness in Maple Ridge
Housing Minister Selina Robinson said the province needs to “make sure that people who have mental health and drug and addiction issues have the support they need so that they can be successful in their housing and they can get their life back on track.”
Robinson said that despite fears, crime didn’t go up when a new shelter opened in her Coquitlam riding.
“The evidence is that crime rates have stayed flat, property values did not go down, and 70 per cent of people who came through those doors are in housing so it makes a real difference in people’s lives,” she said.
Residents will get a chance to share their concerns at a community forum before the end of January.
— With files from Julia Foy