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Workers prepare beds for residents at a homeless shelter in Surrey, B.C. The provincial government considered overhauling a motel in Maple Ridge, B.C. to house roughly 30 homeless people, but abandoned the plans following public outcry.Rafal Gerszak/The Globe and Mail

The B.C. government is abandoning its plans to retrofit an old motel in Maple Ridge to create a homeless shelter, citing the massive public outcry from local residents.

The province had been considering spending $5.5-million to overhaul a Quality Inn to house roughly 30 homeless people who were removed last fall from a tent city in the Fraser Valley community, southeast of Vancouver. They have since lived in a nearby temporary shelter.

Earlier this month, 700 people protested outside the motel, many of whom say they want a facility with on-site mental-health and addiction services rather than shelter-like units in their community.

On Tuesday – the same day of a planned public information session on the project – Housing Minister Rich Coleman said the province had reversed course, and will instead spend $15-million for a permanent facility once another location in Maple Ridge is identified and public consultation is completed.

"It doesn't matter wherever you put these facilities; there's always public sort of NIMBYism that comes to the forefront that says we don't want these here," Mr. Coleman said in a statement posted online Tuesday.

For now, the province will extend funding for the nearby temporary shelter into June, and beyond, if need be, so that the remaining homeless people can be placed in some form of longer-term housing, Mr. Coleman said.

The city will do its best to expedite the process, but any new facility could take several years to build while the renovation of the Quality Inn could probably have been completed by June, Maple Ridge Mayor Nicole Read said.

Ms. Read said some of her constituents "rightfully question the outcomes" of housing people with mental health and addiction problems in shelters for long periods of time. But, she said, research is increasingly showing that housing people first, and then getting them the treatment they need, is a more successful approach.

"People working in this area [of homelessness research] are probably best to speak on whether that works or not," she said.

Mike Morden, a two-term councillor who lost to Ms. Read in the last mayoral election, said he helped lead the opposition to the project because people kept telling him they were upset about open drug use and an increase in petty crime near the current emergency shelter. The local chamber of commerce also opposed the plan after a survey of members.

"You don't put sick people in the position where they stay sick," Mr. Morden said of the housing-first model being employed by the city.

Mr. Morden said he and others will continue pushing the provincial government to include addiction and proper mental-health services with any supportive housing that will get built in the community.

Ralph Altenried, a local financial services adviser, echoed Mr. Morden's call for more long-term support.

"Every community in B.C., or even in Canada, is going through homeless problems right now," said Mr. Altenried, who added that his wife used to work at the shuttered Riverview Hospital for those with mental-health issues.

NDP MLA David Eby, opposition critic for housing, said the public is increasingly aware that not funding stable services for the province's most vulnerable inevitably leads to tent cities, which costs much more of taxpayers' money. Plus, he said people are concerned about the quality of life for people living outside in communities across the province.

Meanwhile, a new report released Tuesday by Vancouver's Megaphone magazine, found that at 46 homeless people died across British Columbia in 2014. That represents a 70-per-cent increase from the previous year.

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