A protest in Maple Ridge against what supportive housing residents were calling a guest ban, has resulted in a compromise.
Ralliers argued guest limitations would increase the likelihood of overdose deaths, and other harms due to social isolation.
Tenants who live in Coast Mental Health-run buildings will now be allowed to register one guest, who will be permitted to visit until a provincial health order, asking B.C. residents to limit interactions with family and friends to one to two people, is over.
A notice was posted in the Alouette Heights supportive housing building on Brown Avenue, informing residents of the update as of Thursday (Dec. 3) at 7 a.m.
Coast Mental Health’s senior manager of communications and community development, Susan Hancock, said the company – which operates supportive housing complexes across Metropolitan Vancouver – has had guest restrictions in place at a number of their locations since the COVID-19 pandemic started in mid-March, but she insists no guest bans were issued.
“More recently, guest restrictions were limited to one or two people in accordance with the Provincial Health Officer Order that is in place until Dec. 7, 2020,” she said.
“We continue to follow the guidelines set by the PHO and local health authorities in an effort to keep tenants, employees and the communities we serve safe.
“At facilities where clients may have compromised immune systems, our best level of protection is by limiting the amount of walk-in traffic throughout our sites, screening visitors, and suggesting to friends and family to connect using virtual platforms.”
Alouette Heights resident and chair of Maple Ridge Street Outreach Society Tracy Scott, considers the compromise a win.
“We are happy that we’ve overthrown the guest ban,” she said.
“This will save somebody’s life in here.”
At a news conference outside the building on Dec. 2, she spoke of losing two of her friends in one day this spring, and blamed similar guest restriction policies for their deaths.
Housing advocate, Ivan Drury, suggested there is a correlation between supportive housing guest bans and the ‘record number of overdoses’ since the COVID-19 pandemic began.
“Overturning Coast Mental Health’s illegal guest ban policy in Maple Ridge should be the example that residents of supportive housing elsewhere follow to fight to overturn these discriminatory and deadly guest bans everywhere,” he said.
Hancock said the company is in a difficult spot, having to balance the risks present with the opioid crisis, with a surge in COVID-19 cases in the Fraser Health region.
“These challenges have made us very aware of the risks to our tenants who have substance use disorders and require harm reduction services and safe supply to keep them safe,” she said.
“For many of our supportive housing facilities, including Maple Ridge locations, we offer tenants a safe consumption room where they can be supported by staff who are trained in administering Naloxone if an overdose occurs.
“For clients in recovery from opioid dependency, we provide them daily supports as they go through drug treatment programs that may include substitution treatments or abstinence-based approaches.
“We also continue to remind tenants with substance use disorders never to use alone.”