Mayor Tara Veer, MLA for Red Deer-South Barb Miller, Minister of Community and Social Services Irfan Sabir and MLA for Red Deer-North Kim Schreiner pose for a photo after the news conference announcing $7 million for a new homeless shelter. Robin Grant/Red Deer Express

Province announces $7-million investment for a new homeless shelter in Red Deer

New 120-bed shelter will likely be built by 2020, says Minister of Community and Social Services

The provincial government announced a $7-million investment to build a new, 120-bed homeless shelter for Red Deer on Thursday.

Minister of Community and Social Services Irfan Sabir said the provincial government has ‘heard loud and clear’ that Red Deer urgently needs more shelter space and support.

“We know that Red Deer is a growing and changing community, which needs the resources to meet an increasingly complex homeless population. We know a permanent infrastructure solution is needed and our government listened and worked with the community here,” he said at the announcement at City Hall.

The shelter will be open seven days a week for 24 hours, he said, adding, “It will be a steady permanent place where individuals can sleep and be safe and seek help day or night.”

Sabir confirmed the province would invest the money in the shelter despite election results but said there are still details that need to be worked out.

The building would be a brand new facility to “get rid of the band-aid solutions and put in something permanent,” which would likely be built by 2020.

Mayor Tara Veer said Red Deer desperately needs a homeless shelter because of the continuing recession and growing addiction and mental health crisis in the City. She said the investment will go a long way to meet the safety needs of the most vulnerable people in Red Deer.

“Over the past year, shelter beds were full and at times overflow beds were full and daytime warming was full. But that’s not all,” she said.

“This social crisis has manifested itself in the 60 to 80 rough sleeper camps causing safety issues in our community throughout our park system. It has manifested itself in our downtown with people seeking shelter in business vestibules and lack of sufficient storage, washrooms and daytime supports, causing conditions of social disorder in our community.”

Executive Director of Safe Harbour Kath Hoffman said a new, permanent facility will be great for Red Deer.

“We need solutions to the temporary solutions we’ve had for a long time, like the ATCO trailers,” she said. “The investment is designed to meet the needs of the community.”

In addition to the $7-million investment, Red Deer gets $3.8 million in provincial funding for the Housing First program and $1.1 million in funds to operate the People’s Place Adult Emergency Shelter and the Winter Warming Centre. A further $324,000 was recently allocated for the Centre to extend its operation to Sept. 2019.

MLA for Red Deer-South Barb Miller and MLA for Red Deer-North Kim Schreiner also attended the announcement.

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