“Who is going to be here all night long protecting us? You guys opened up here in a matter of days and didn’t inform anyone in the neighbourhood you were doing it!”
Emotions ran high Thursday night at an open forum in Maple Ridge for a temporary homeless shelter.
It was intended to appease residents impacted by a tent city homeless camp on Cliff Avenue.
But the city is now facing backlash from local business owners, like Robert Jaglum with CB Yard Services, who wants the shelter on the outskirts of town.
“Not in the downtown core. We just drove through 224th and we noticed two more businesses that have shut down in the last month, that I’ve noticed, and it’s just self destructing down here.”
George Simpson with RainCity Housing says he understands why people are anxious, but: “We all live in the same community, including the homeless. Typically once these shelters are operational, since most of the needs can be met indoors, the activity around the community lessens a little bit.”
The 40-bed shelter at 222nd and Lougheed Highway will be open October through March.
Tensions running high
“Somebody from the city needs to talk in front here and explain what they are going to do, and they need to promise us, in six months, this is going to be gone!”
Tensions ran high at the open house and business owners are up in arms.
“People have a lot of money tied up in their businesses here. They can’t afford to get run out of town.”
Owner of Mission Ridge Auto Sales, who asked not to be identified, says business owners are frustrated that they were not consulted about the location for the temporary homeless shelter.
“We have problems every morning with drug use, condoms, just a mess. I worry it’s going to get a whole lot worse, once the homeless shelter opens up.”
Residents say they want to see a solution to the Cliff Avenue tent city, posing problems for nearby residents, but they say the shelter should be put somewhere else.
City says the homeless camp was getting too big
Kellie Smith with the City of Maple Ridge says they are forced to open the 40-bed shelter because of the size of the Cliff Avenue encampment.
“In order to really clear the camp and give that neighbourhood back to its residents, we had to provide a place for those people to go, and there wasn’t capacity in the local or regional shelters for them.”
People are concerned about safety, but Smith says security will be on site from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m., with patrols overnight. She adds lighting will be improved.
As for if the homeless could end up back on the street when it shuts down, George Simpson with RainCity Housing, who will run the shelter, says anything is possible.
“Many people do find an alternative before the end of the shelter, and that being said, a lot of help will be offered along the way to get the best outcomes for everybody.”