City council has approved a Development Permit for Central Alberta Safe Harbour Society for the use of a temporary warming centre and overnight shelter with 26 beds to be operated from May 1st 2019 to March 31st 2020.
This will be located at 5256 53rd Ave.
Council previously approved the warming centre and a 20-bed overnight shelter, however the timeframe specified for the shelter was until April of 2019. The months of operation for the warming centre were from October 2018 to April of 2019. As a result of these changed timeframes and an increase in beds, a new application was submitted.
In a letter to council Kath Hoffman, executive director of Safe Harbour said, “Besides keeping people warm these past months, the Warming Centre has helped offset the social disorder in our community simply by having a place for people to be. There are 100-120 unique individuals accessing it daily.”
She went on to say, “The Overdose Prevention Site in our parking lot has contributed to these numbers and the people traffic in our parking lot, but the increase is primarily due to the horrific increase in drug usage of our citizens. These are not issues exclusive to winter anymore. This is the way of things now.”
Council has consistently provided lots of extensions and it was in December of 2017 when council originally approved the overnight shelter for 20 beds. The 26 beds approved today is the maximum capacity for the facility.
The extension will allow further time for the City to advocate to the Province for a 24/7 shelter.
But the concerns have been growing in the community, with many of the neighbouring businesses and residents in the surrounding neighbourhood having complaints.
Councillor Dianne Wyntjes said she sees this as an extension of support for the vulnerable in the community.
“For me I often try to put myself in the boots of the people living in the neighbourhood, the people who are delivering the services,” she said.
She said ethically and morally she supports it for the needs in the community, but at the same time she is challenged by what she is reading by the neighbours who have to live with their neighbour.
Wyntjes concluded by asking that administration look at better supports and responses for these citizens.
Coun. Buck Buchanan said that while he appreciates the issue at hand, he doesn’t support going through with the motion as he continues to see the word temporary over and over again, with nothing seeming to change.
Coun. Michael Dawe said he was troubled reading the letters from the adjacent landowners because of the questions they’re raising and their frustrations they feel nobody is listening to about safety.
“Nobody should have to be afraid to go to work,” said Dawe.
“The big picture is we’re not going to really get on top of the opioid crisis unless we deal with what causes it and that we have permanent solutions to it not just treatment options.”
Mayor Tara Veer who spoke in favour of the motion, said the community desperately needs a permanent solution and that a lot of people, including council are frustrated with temporary solutions.
She said after advocating to the Province for many years, they have finally gotten the attention from the Province because of the critical situation in Red Deer.
Veer said, “If the problem is the impacts in neighbourhoods, then our responsibility is instead of it being reactive for calls for complaints we need to shift towards a model for a proactive clean up, proactive enforcement and to integrate our response on that.”