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Over the past few years, homelessness has emerged as a significant problem in every community in British Columbia and this includes Maple Ridge.
Regional homeless counts began in 2003 and occur every four years. Homeless counts in the Metro Vancouver and Fraser Valley demonstrate a significant growth in the number of people living on our streets. The 2017 Homeless Count reported 124 persons without shelter in Maple Ridge versus 84 in 2014. Here are the links to the latest homeless counts for Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley:
The City of Maple Ridge has a role in advocating for health care supports to address the physical health, mental health and addiction services required in our community. The responsibility, authority and funding to connect citizens to housing and health care rests with the Province, primarily through BC Housing and Fraser Health.
In recent years, the Province of BC has responded by providing additional outreach, health, and shelter services in Maple Ridge for people who are homeless.
While homelessness has become more visible to the public in recent years, over the past two decades various forms of emergency shelters and transition homes have operated in Maple Ridge. In addition, BC Housing and the Ministry of Social Services provide rental assistance programs to a wide variety of Maple Ridge citizens of all ages and circumstances. Unfortunately, there is a very tight supply of rental housing in Maple Ridge and surrounding communities.
The City initiated an injunction process to have the camp removed in May of 2017. That injunction was adjourned in June of 2017 to give the newly elected provincial government and BC Housing the opportunity to develop and present a new proposal to deal with the short term and long term issues that remain around homelessness.
A condition of the adjournment was that those occupying the St. Anne property would conduct themselves in a way that not only respected safety on the site, but the safety and security of the immediate neighbourhood. Assurances were obtained by the leadership of the camp that recommendations from the Maple Ridge Fire Department and RCMP around site and neighbourhood safety would be respected and acted on.
The Fire Department conducts regular inspections of the camp seeking compliance with this Court Order.
An obligation upon the occupants of the camp to address fire and life safety issues at this site have been in place since November 2017, when a Consent Order was issued by the BC Supreme Court. This order laid out the obligations of the camp occupants to address fire and life safety issues as identified by the Fire Department. The City and BC Housing have regularly made support available to the camp occupants to achieve compliance with safety issues.
BC Housing has provided 53 units of temporary modular housing on Royal Crescent in Maple Ridge that is managed by Coast Mental Health. A number of people from the St. Anne Camp have relocated to this modular housing.
The City is working to contain the size of the camp and will continue to work to close the camp as additional shelter and housing comes available.