Monday, September 23, 2019
B.C. says modular housing is working — here’s what it will look like in Maple Ridge
It is good to see rthis working out. lessons are been learned. Communities are happening. In the end, economic homelessness is caused solely because of land costs and homeowners needing to support mortgage payments. This has driven rents up.
Pull out the land cost and a module can be supported easily out of even welfare payments as was usual forty years ago. Thus putting in module homes on interim land owned by the city in its landbank is a good start.
Putting those module homes on top of buildings is also a good solution as it can provide the owners a tax break and other similar cut outs.
The two problem areas that need something more is service for the severe mentally ill and for the out of control addicted. Again isolation is warrented and actual supervision to provide necessary support. This is small part of the overall problem. The rest do resond well to a stable living arrangement.
B.C. says modular housing is working — here’s what it will look like in Maple Ridge
by Jesse Winter
Tues., Sept. 10, 2019timer7 min. read
MAPLE RIDGE, B.C.—With the latest phase of a controversial modular housing project set to open in Maple Ridge, B.C. Housing says newly released statistics show the province’s “housing first” strategy is working.
But the mayor of Maple Ridge says he still isn’t convinced that modular housing is the answer for the community.
The new numbers, released Tuesday, are based on surveys at the first seven supportive modular housing projects in Vancouver and Surrey.
The surveys of those living in the Vancouver and Surrey modular housing, though, has found the vast majority — 94 per cent — of them remained housed after six months.
Eighty-four per cent said the housing had improved their overall well-being, and more than half said their physical health had improved.
“As you can see, it’s making a difference in people’s lives,” B.C. Housing Minister Selina Robinson told Star Vancouver.
“By bringing people inside, helping them stabilize their health and have some safety, they are better able to focus on their other issues, whether that’s addictions issues or mental health,” Robinson said.
The statistics come as the province prepares to unveil its latest supportive modular housing development on Burnett Street in Maple Ridge.
Star Vancouver was given an advance copy of the report and a tour of the new building on Monday. It includes 51 individual units, each with its own washroom, kitchenette, full-sized fridge and an air conditioning unit.
Like the existing modular housing project on Maple Ridge’s Royal Crescent, the Burnett Street site includes a lounge area with a flat-screen TV, an overdose prevention room and an industrial kitchen that will serve meals at breakfast and dinner.
It will also have wraparound services for residents, including outreach workers, wellness checks, life-skills training, employment programs and referrals to community services and support groups. Sixteen on-site support workers from Coast Mental Health will help provide referrals to Fraser Health for treatment and other clinical services.
The only substantial difference between the two sites is that units at the Burnett Street location are substantially larger than those at the Royal Crescent site.
Despite the new statistics, Maple Ridge Mayor Mike Morden said in a statement he remains concerned that the modular housing projects are not “appropriate given the extreme challenges” faced by those housed at both sites.
Morden said he is concerned that facilities focused on mental health should not permit substance use inside, as the Coast Mental Health modulars do with harm-reduction strategies.
Essentially, Morden wants to see potential tenants go through abstinence-based detox and treatment faculties before anyone gets housed. He insisted, while providing no evidence, that housing first does not work.
“It’s amazing,” Randy Peterson said Monday morning as he toured the unit into which he’ll soon move.
Peterson was born in Surrey and lived most of his life in Maple Ridge working in construction and as a community nurse. He said he became homeless two years ago when his landlady evicted him so she could renovate the unit, and he couldn’t find anywhere else in his price range.
“It’s been such an eye-opening experience,” he says. “It really showed me how easy it is for anyone to become homeless.”
At first Peterson ended up at the city’s Salvation Army shelter, a place he describes as “scary.” He said the chaos of trying to support people going through enormous struggles with no privacy is sometimes too much for the staff to cope with.
When the first modular units opened on Royal Crescent about a year ago, Randy got one of those places but he said things there were rough at first.
“There was rampant theft,” he said. “You could get into anyone’s room without a key. You just kicked the doors.”
Jason Payne is the senior project manager for Coast Mental Health and oversees both Maple Ridge modular housing projects. He acknowledged there have been challenges at the site. But through working with the neighbourhood and the RCMP they’ve been able to address most of the concerns, Payne said.
The doors all got upgraded locks, he said, and the on-site “clean team” made up of residents spends a lot of time cleaning up the neighbourhood. They also hired on-site security to help address loitering concerns, and a small number of residents have been evicted for failing to follow the rules.
Attila Devasarhelyi — who goes by the nickname AJ Senior — has lived alongside Peterson at the Royal Crescent site for the past year.
Devasarhelyi said the environment at the Royal Crescent site has improved greatly in the past few months, especially after a few “troublemakers” were made to leave.
“It’s been a lot better. They got rid of the riff-raff here, the troublemakers, so that really helped,” Devasarhelyi said.
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“But that’s just growing pains. You’re going to get that anywhere until you get the right mix of people,” Devasarhelyi said. “It’s really hard to judge who you should put in a place.”
That’s something Payne said Coast Mental Health takes very seriously, and works hard to perfect. One of the criteria for getting a place in either of the modular projects is that prospective tenants must be residents of Maple Ridge.
Even so, things don’t always go smoothly.
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In the spring, the city enforced an injunction against homeless campers at a tent city called Anita’s Place, effectively kicking out dozens of people. The city said it was responding to a fire and safety situation that had grown out of control. In February of last year there were a number of fires and at least one large explosion at the camp.
The city set up an exclusion zone around the camp, with fences, and refused to let anyone return who wasn’t on a pre-approved list of registered campers.
The evacuation of the homeless camp in the spring sparked a crisis moment, officials say.
Between 40 and 50 people were left with nowhere else to go, said MLA Bob D’Eith.
Many of them ended up at an emergency overflow shelter run by the Salvation Army that was little more than “matts on the floor,” D’Eith said. “It was never meant to be anything other than emergency shelter in the winter.”
So the province chose a location it already owned, and moved ahead with plans to create a second supportive modular housing facility over the vocal protest of the city’s mayor and many of its residents.
D’Eith said all 51 of the new modular units on Burnett Street are spoken for, and 33 will go to former residents of the tent city, including the six who remain living there.
This will “allow the city to get it’s park back,” D’Eith said.
Mayor Morden disputed that.
“The Royal Crescent modular complex made that same promise,” Morden said.
“As well, there continue to be very regular reports from the (Royal Crescent) neighbourhood of negative interactions, police calls for service, drug dealing and use,” Morden said.
Morden said the city is now working to eliminate both temporary modular sites, and ultimately get to rid of all the low-barrier operations in Maple Ridge. He said city council wants to see nothing but abstinence-based programming including detox, long-term recovery and affordable “sober living crime-free housing.”
When construction on the new location began earlier this summer, some neighbours came out to protest, telling Star Vancouver they planned to keep up an anti-modular housing vigil all summer long.
That level of protest didn’t materialize D’Eith said, but he knows many Maple Ridge residents still have reservations over having supportive modular housing in their neighbourhoods.
“I think it’s really important to know that this is about not only helping the homeless people in our community, but also making sure we’re taking care of the community itself,” D’Eith said.
D’Eith said staff at the Burnett Street location have created a community advisory council that includes input from local residents to help them deal with any concerns that arise.
Like the Royal Crescent location, the Burnett Street modular housing will be staffed 24 hours a day, and will have security guards on site through the night.
“The hope is that a lot of the fears people have, just like Royal Cres., will not be realized, “D’Eith said. “There have been some issues, but they were addressed.”
As he got his bearings in the new Burnett Street unit, Peterson marvelled at the size and seeming comfort of it. The units all come stocked with pots, pans, cups, bowls and cutlery. There’s even a fresh bag of coffee waiting next to the coffee maker in each unit.
Sitting at his new kitchen table, Peterson eyes welled with tears.
“It’s just amazing the things people here are doing,” he said.