Former Maple Ridge councillor Mike Morden opposes modular homes on Royal Crescent. (Phil Melnychuk/THE NEWS)

Modular homes won’t help homeless, says former Maple Ridge councillor

People need long-term, second-stage support to progress

People struggling with addiction need long-term and individualized mental health help if they’re ever going to recover, says former Maple Ridge councillor Mike Morden.

B.C. Housing’s 55-unit modular homes proposed for the 22500-block of Royal Crescent won’t allow people to progress out of addiction or mental illness, he adds.

“This, on the face of it, doesn’t look like it will solve anything,” said Morden, past-president of the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows Chamber of Commerce and who is considering running for mayor or council in the fall.

The province of B.C. bought the site on Royal Crescent for temporary modular homes to house people living at the Anita Place Tent City and for others struggling with homelessness.

The site – located at 22534, 22548 and 22556 Royal Crescent – will include 55 modular homes that will be staffed 24 hours, seven days a week.

Morden said modular homes will not help residents staying there because there is no long-term treatment available and that it will have “huge consequences” for the downtown.

No one will be helped because there are no treatment options, he added.

He’s also cautious about the 80-bed supportive housing and shelter complex proposed for Burnett Street, but wants to see the operation model.

Apart from immediate treatment to get out of addiction, people need to have second-stage, long-term supportive care to help address people’s underlying issues, but Morden says that support isn’t there.

Meanwhile, Morden said that Anita Place should just be closed, that Maple Ridge can comply with court requirements that mandate that people must have access to a shelter before a tent city is closed down.

“There are lots of places for them to go.”

Tent city residents can go to the Salvation Army Ridge Meadows Ministries, he said.

Tent city residents could also use the Mat Program that local churches just started, which gives street people a place for the night.

“We have to have these options in the road for people and we don’t [have] long-term treatment of various sorts,” with individual assessments, he added.

“We need long-term health care resources with full supports.”

Ridge Meadows RCMP said last July there has been a small increase in the amount of crime reported in the Port Haney area since the tent city opened, adding that figure increases if the incidents within the tent city itself are included.

Morden, on his Facebook page, also cited a new U.S. research paper, The Moral Hazard of Lifesaving Innovations: Naloxone Access, Opioid Abuse and Crime.

The paper says that while naloxone has great potential as a harm reduction strategy, it may unintentionally increase opioid use – because it saves the lives of opioid users, who then continue to use.

The paper also says that because naloxone reduces the risk of overdose, it may make opioid use more appealing.

“By increasing the number of opioid abusers who need to fund their drug purchases, naloxone access laws may also increase theft,” the study says.

Morden added that naloxone may have its limits in reducing the death toll because it doesn’t address the root causes of addiction.

“Findings do not necessarily imply that we should stop making naloxone available to individuals suffering from opioid addiction, or those who are at risk of overdose. They do imply that the public health community should acknowledge and prepare for the behavioral effects we find here,” Morden quoted from the study.

He supports the use of naloxone, but says it’s a short-term solution and that users must then be offered long-term help and treatment.

Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows school board trustee Susan Carr, who’s on the Maple Ridge’s opioid working group and is planning to run for council, said the availability of naloxone conclusion might apply more to long-term drug users, that they may come to rely on it.

“The people that might apply to more are the people in the at-risk groups, where there are a lot of people always around that carry those kits,” she said.

“I mean, in the end, it’s still a human life. If you’ve got a kit, you’re going to try to save somebody.”

Carr doesn’t think that having naloxone available encourages an increase in frequency among casual users.

“It [naloxone] could be a negative of that … but I think the positive of it really outweighs it: saving lives. Whether they become reliant on it or not, I don’t think that’s the question. They’re more reliant on the drugs than they ever will be taking the chance that somebody’s going to Narcan [naloxone] them back,” she added

Carr said she wants to learn more about the plans for the 55 modular housing units planned for Royal Crescent.

“It has to go somewhere. We can’t leave them on the street.”

And if you’re opposed to the modular housing, what’s the alternative, she asked.

Is scattered housing better, she wonders.

“I think if everybody’s altogether, they can be supported better. I don’t know the answers. You’re never going to solve the problem because it’s a societal thing.”

But the drug issue has to be addressed, she added.

A meeting over the proposed 80-unit supportive housing and shelter complex on Burnett Street takes place on this Thursday, March 15 at Thomas Haney secondary from 5 to 7:30 p.m., involving staff from Fraser Health, B.C. Housing and the Salvation Army. B.C. Housing hasn’t said if the meeting will include the modular home project proposed for Royal Crescent. It has said that consultation will take place on the modular home proposal, but gave no dates.

The City of Maple Ridge sent out a press release March 6, saying it wasn’t consulted about the location for modular housing, telling people to contact their MLAs.

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