Temporary warming facility approved in Red Deer

  • Sep. 23, 2015 3:06 p.m.

After much deliberation Red Deer City council approved a development plan for a temporary warming facility that will be located near the Safe Harbour facility.

An application was put forth by Safe Harbour where a temporary facility would be built and used for two years from the months of November to April. The hope is to provide a place where the City’s homeless can gather during the cold winter days. It will not provide a place for people to stay overnight.

The facility will be constructed at 5256 53rd Ave., adjacent to the Safe Harbour Society facility.

“First, I’d like to say that we are very pleased to have a site approved so that we know that Red Deer’s vulnerable citizens are going to be warm and safe over the winter. Having said that, this isn’t our preferred site but we are happy to be at this point,” said Colleen Fisher, chair of the Safe Harbour Society Board.

On Aug. 17th, a development plan was defeated in second reading by members of council that recommended a different site for use of the temporary warming centre. Fisher and Kath Hoffman, executive director of Safe Harbour came forward in the meeting on Sept. 21st to recommend that council reconsider this location.

Members of council agreed to wave regular process and debate a motion to reconsider the previous site. It was defeated 5-2, with Councillors Frank Wong and Lynne Mulder voting to reconsider.

There was much deliberation in the Chamber of the benefits, costs and location of the sites comparatively. Ultimately, the decision was made to use the site of 5256 53rd Ave. and to construct a temporary facility using three modular structures to create a single large facility.

“The facility that came to council two weeks ago was there – everything was there already. There were showers, washrooms and lockers there already. It was on the periphery of downtown, and was easy to access on foot. Everything was there, whereas this one requires a lot of work and expense to make it workable,” explained Fisher.

Concerns were delivered to council by members of the public during the hearing held on Aug. 17th in the form of several letters that outlined issues with the location. These concerns included but were not limited to a higher concentration of street-involved people in the area, the perception of increased drug use and drug paraphernalia in the area, increased visibility of the homeless population and the perception of an unsafe area.

All of these concerns were addressed with solutions that council took to be appropriate, and solutions were offered to each of these concerns.

“We will have some extra people on site, but we will have some extra staff now, too, that comes with the building. We are disappointed because we didn’t necessarily get what we wanted or get the ideal,” said Hoffman.

“We’re used to making do. We’ve got talented staff and a community that supports us on the whole. We’re going to make this work. It is temporary and that’s what we need to keep in our heads, too. If there is a place for it to be, and people want it at Safe Harbour, then so be it because we know what we’re doing there. It’s a lot of people to manage, but we’ll manage.” kmendonsa@reddeerexpress.com