With controversy swirling around the Caring Place and its services, an adult-education class is organizing a solution-based discussion forum next week.
Under the direction of their teacher Dale Hardy, the Social Justice 12 class at Riverside Centre will put on a panel discussion on Tuesday afternoon to discuss homeless, poverty, mental health, and addiction issues.
The panelists will be Darrell Pilgrim, director of the Caring Place, Michelle Schmidt, former principal of the school district's Keeping Kids in School program, and Ineke Boekhorst, executive director of the Downtown Maple Ridge Business Improvement Association.
"There is tension in the community," Hardy said. "We don't want to mute that but we want a solution-based discussion."
Hardy's social justice class focuses largely on problems in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside.
But last fall and winter when there was much talk in the media about the Caring Place, the social justice class narrowed part of its focus on to hyper-local issues as well, and that's when the idea for the forum was born.
Hardy said he knows some panelists might not agree with his point of view. But he wants the discussion on March 5 to be "respectful" but not scripted.
Hardy said the women in his classes are the driving force behind class projects.
"Social justice is not an academic course, hence we get a real mixture of students," Hardy said, adding that it's his experience that "it's the women who put all the energy into making it work."
The discussion takes place on March 5 at 1: 30 p.m. at Riverside Centre, 20575 Thorne Ave. and is open to the public.