The BC Housing Ministry has released an independent review of three supportive housing sites in Maple Ridge, and recommendations to improve services and safety of the residents.
Premier David Eby, when he was the Attorney General and Housing Minister, ordered the review in March of 2022.
Days earlier, The News had published a story about concerns from community members. A list of dead former residents of the facilities had been written in social media by a local woman, Diedra Lucas. Her focus was on the Royal Crescent modular housing building that has provided 53 homes since October 2018. It was built to coincide with the decampment of the Anita Place tent city, which was on nearby 223rd Street, at what is now Beckettt Park.
Consultants Harry Cummings and Associates led the review, which was expanded to examine operations at all three supportive housing sites in Maple Ridge: Royal Crescent, Garibaldi Ridge and Alouette Heights, which are all operated by Coast Mental Health (CMH). Combined, they house some 150 residents. The consultants sought input from supportive housing residents and staff, BC Housing, Coast Mental Health, the City of Maple Ridge, police and local service providers.
Among its findings, the report says there are more homeless individuals experiencing mental health issues.
Among the pressures on Coast, it lists “An ongoing opioid crisis and toxic drug supply in the region that is seriously impacting people in terms of damaged mental capacity, personality, and overall ability to function. This has made it especially challenging for service providers to engage and work alongside these individuals,” it says.
“While the scope of support and services being offered through the supportive housing sites is sufficient for some individuals, there are individuals with serious mental health and/or addictions issues whose condition and care needs severely strain or exceed the resources that are available in supportive housing.”
It says the introduction of the Assertive Community Treatment team, Intensive Case Management team, and Integrated Homelessness Action Response Team through Fraser Health are important recent developments, providing specialized care to some supportive housing and shelter residents.
The report addresses criticism of Coast Mental Health.
“While some interests in the community have questioned whether CMH is the most appropriate service provider to operate the buildings, others emphasized the importance of continuing to work with and support CMH to address the existing challenges,” it said. “It’s generally acknowledged that a new service provider would face the same fundamental issues and challenges, and replacing the existing provider would result in losing some of the valuable knowledge gained to date in working with the local homeless population.”
Among the 25 recommendations for CMH were:
• Ensure that residents are informed about deaths in the building in a timely and sensitive manner. Ensure that grief counselling is provided to residents and staff, and that deceased residents are honoured and memorialized.
• Improved security measures, and controlled access.
• Establish a dedicated transport service to support residents attending offsite appointments with health and social service providers.
• Develop closer relations with Fraser Health and integrate more primary care services in the supportive housing sites – establish a nurse practitioner and/or family physician at each of the housing sites at least two days a week.
• Provide opportunities for residents to meet with a hoarding specialist/therapist.
• Expand psychiatric care across the three housing sites.
• Reduce staff turnover and promote staff continuity.
• Ensure that supportive housing staff have trauma informed training, such as responding to mental health emergencies.
• Continue to encourage residents to inform staff when they plan to use drugs in their rooms and initiate additional wellness checks accordingly.
The province, in releasing the report, noted that some of the recommendations in the report have been implemented.
The report includes recommendations for BC Housing, the City of Maple Ridge, the province and other community supports and services. These include more youth shelter services and expand youth housing options, more affordable housing options in the city, and more shelter options.
The report identifies that Royal Crescent was not built to operate as long-term supportive housing, was not purpose-built, and is being replaced by a new permanent building that is under construction. Once the new permanent homes are open, the Royal Crescent site will be shut down.
“BC Housing is committed to addressing the recommendations to ensure that residents are getting the services they need to improve their lives in a safe and secure environment,” said Ravi Kahlon, Minister of Housing. “We’re replacing Royal Crescent, have already taken action to improve safety and health supports at all three supportive housing sites in Maple Ridge and are actively working with partners to find more opportunities to strengthen the delivery of supportive housing in the community.”
The new permanent supportive housing that will replace Royal Crescent is under construction on lots 11685-11695 Fraser St. and 11686 224th St.
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