Update: June 29, 2016

Is camping now legal in our parks?

On Tuesday, June 14, 2016 Maple Ridge Council gave final reading to an amendment to the Parks Regulations – Bylaw No. 7085-2014. The amendment prohibits temporary structures from being placed in a number of City parks, in particular those with play equipment amenities that are geared to children and families. The amendment brings the City’s bylaw in line with recent rulings by the BC Supreme Court relating to injunctions sought by the cities of Abbotsford and Victoria relating to homeless camps.

The new paragraph of the bylaw amendment reads;
…no person shall place, secure, erect, use or maintain a temporary shelter at any time in The Civic Centre/Memorial Park, Nokai Park or Raymond Park or in, on or within: playgrounds, spray parks or pools; horticultural display areas or ornamental gardens; skateboard bowls, tennis courts or other sports courts; sports fields, stadiums or dugouts; stages or bleachers; washroom facilities, picnic shelters, or gazebos; areas of a Park that have otherwise been issued a permit pursuant to this Bylaw; recreation facilities; cemeteries; golf courses; or pathways, bridges, docks or wharves within the City.

The bylaw amendment outlines specific parks and public spaces where camping is strictly prohibited. In other areas not included in the camping regulation the bylaw amendment requires that any temporary structures must be removed between the hours of 9:00 am and 7:00 pm.

Background information and links:

What will happen to the temporary shelter? Is it staying open or closing?

The temporary shelter has been granted a nine month extension to allow for the development of an interim modular shelter to bridge the construction of a permanent purpose-built housing solution.

Background information and links:

On Monday, May 30 Council held a Special Council meeting at 6:00 pm in Council Chambers to get updates from a number of different stakeholders on their work to address homelessness in Maple Ridge.

Presenters included:
  • Ridge Meadows RCMP: Superintendent David Fleugel, Commanding Officer - Ridge Meadows RCMP, on policing response related to homelessness.
  • Alouette Addictions: Annika Polegato, Executive Director - Alouette Addictions, with an update on their work with people who have transitioned from the streets into housing and their interface with people who remain living on the street.
  • Fraser Health: Andy Libbiter, Executive Director, Mental Health and Substance Use - Fraser Health, Denyse Houde, Director Mental Health and Substance Use - Fraser Health, Dr. Helena Swinkels, Medical Health Officer - Fraser Health speaking to their programs aimed at the homeless citizens who are dealing with addictions and/or mental health issues.
  • RainCity Housing: Sean Speer, Associate Director - RainCity Housing and Support Society, with an update on the shelter operations and the outcomes for their past and current clients.
  • BC Housing: Dominic Flanagan, Executive Director Supportive Housing and Programs, with an update on Alouette Heights, the Salvation Army shelter and the proposal for the clients currently in care at the RainCity operated shelter closing on June 30, 2016. 
Special Maple Ridge Council Meeting - May 30, 2016

On Monday, June 20, Council dealt with the three step process that was presented to Council on May 30, 2016 by BC Housing to provide shelter and housing to people in our community who are homeless. The request from BC Housing is;
  1. BC Housing will assume the lease of the temporary shelter and keep the facility open for up to nine months.
  2. Within the nine months BC Housing will construct an interim modular shelter facility that will be in place for 36 months.
  3. BC Housing will work with the City to develop a permanent purpose-built housing solution for Maple Ridge based on a $15 million commitment from the BC Housing Ministry.
On June 6, Council directed staff to conduct a forum to gather feedback from the business owners and residents in the area around the temporary shelter to help provide them with more information before they consider endorsing an extension to the temporary shelter. The resulting High Impact Stakeholder Consultation meetings were held on Thursday, June 16.

Invitations to the High Impact Stakeholder Consultation were delivered, by hand, to 185 residences and businesses in proximity to the temporary shelter. Local business owners and residents attended the sessions and provided their feedback. Four Council members, staff from RainCity Housing, RCMP, Maple Ridge Bylaws, Community Services, Downtown Maple Ridge Business Improvement Area and Alouette Addictions attended the sessions. The meeting facilitation was done by Hector Bremner from Pace Consulting and all comments were recorded.

The facilitator asked participants to share their comments and observations on;
  1. Impacts of the current temporary shelter.
  2. Practical solutions that might be implemented in Maple Ridge.
  3. Whether they could support the three step process as requested by BC Housing.
All participant comments, as well as emails received by Council on this issue, can be found within the report that is part of the June 20, 2016 Council Workshop Agenda

After considering all the feedback, Council voted to endorse the extension of the temporary shelter by up to nine months and to assign the lease of the temporary shelter from the City of Maple Ridge to BC Housing on the condition that BC Housing come back to Council before any further extensions are considered.

Council also directed staff to bring back a report on how the impacts and recommendations included in the High Impact Stakeholders Consultation Summary – Temporary Shelter report will be addressed.

Where will the Interim Modular Shelter be located and when will it be built.

The location and the date that the construction will happen have not been determined at this time. On June 20, at the Workshop Meeting Council received the Interim Modular Shelter Land Use Criteria and Process report. That report can also be found as part of the June 20, 2016 Council Workshop Agenda.

Council endorsed the report which outlines details of each step to put an interim modular shelter in place including the criteria for selecting a site and the process that will follow, including the development of a Neighbourhood Advisory Committee that will be in place throughout the life of the interim modular facility as well as expediting the closure of the temporary shelter.

What happens now?

Staff, working with BC Housing, will bring back recommendations for locations for both the interim modular shelter and the permanent purpose-built shelter as per the criteria and process outlined in the Interim Modular Shelter Land Use Criteria and Process report. Once Council endorses locations the usual processes around zoning will commence. Those processes involve public input through the various Council meetings and Public Hearings. The expectation is that while the site for both the interim and purpose-built facilities will be identified at the same time, the focus will be on the zoning and permits for the interim modular shelter to ensure that the operation of the temporary shelter can be wound down as quickly as possible.

In addition to the development process work, the City will be working on a Memorandum of Understanding around the operation of the temporary facility and interim modular shelter to address the issues that were brought forward in the High Impact Stakeholder Consultation. Those agreements will come before Council in the coming weeks.

The design work for the $15 million permanent housing solution is expected to take longer. All efforts will be made to expedite this project as well.

In addition to the formal development processes around zoning and permits for the interim modular shelter there will be a community education and engagement program that will roll out in conjunction with the development approval process to provide the opportunity for dialogue with the public. Details of this consultation are being developed and will be presented to Council in the coming weeks.

What other work is going on to deal with the impacts of homelessness, mental health and addiction in our community.

In terms of the highest priority items, the City of Maple Ridge has asked Fraser Health to review their practices around addiction support services to minimize impacts for the average citizen. The impact of discarded needles needs to be addressed in a more substantive way.

More health care staffing has been put into place to work directly with homeless citizens on the front lines. This is a critical part of bringing people into a continuum of care including housing.

BC Housing has increased the availability of rent supplements to support people staying in market housing where it can be obtained in a very tight market.

Talks are underway with BC Corrections to ensure that prisoners who are released back to the community have a better plan for integration back into the community and do not end up on the streets of Maple Ridge for lack of resources to return to their home community.

BC Housing is working with the Salvation Army Caring Place to ensure that their housing model and practices are delivered in a way that is consistent with the needs of clients and the community.

The City has implemented a security and policing strategy that involved the Downtown Maple Ridge BIA, Private Security and the RCMP to deal with issues around homelessness, mental health and addiction and mitigating impacts in the downtown.

BC Housing and Fraser Health have been informed of private treatment centres operating in the community who do not have a proper release program for their clients who fall out of treatment. The City has expectations that organizations that are funded by tax dollars do not drop off clients at local shelters, but instead return people to their home communities with dignity and compassion.

The Strong Kids Team, a part of the Maple Ridge Resilience Initiative, held its first community forum in March 2016. The team will be coming back to Council with a report on future projects to ensure that programs are underway to break the cycle that leads people to a life on the streets.