Offering hope

For those of us who have called Red Deer home for most if not all of our lives, the City has certainly seen its changes – some subtle, some more dramatic.

The last decade, for instance, has seen rapid growth, more development popping up especially on the south side, larger-scale shopping complexes and big box stores.

Residential areas have also boomed over the past few years, stretching the City’s perimeter in ways unimaginable in earlier days.

With this scale of growth of course come challenges that larger centres often struggle to find answers to – homelessness, increased drug use, prostitution and crime in general.

Red Deer is really feeling the pressures of these issues. For example, a drive through the City’s downtown will reveal some of these challenges up close.

These challenges are all the more evident after Red Deer city RCMP wrapped up an investigation into drugs and the sex trade this past September.

The investigation took place over a three-month period and resulted in numerous charges being laid. The investigation into the sex trade also resulted in 21 charges being laid and seven vehicles seized. There were 11 johns charged and 10 sex trade workers charged also.

The investigation into drug trafficking also resulted in the execution of five search warrants, seizure of drugs, weapons, money and 48 CDSA and Criminal charges.

These problems are certainly not going away, and thankfully there are people in our community who are trying to make a difference. Not only for the benefit of Red Deer as a whole, but for those within these lifestyles as well.

Of course the RCMP do a great job of keeping our streets safe, and this recent bust proves that. On the other side, we have an organization that works to connect one-on-one with many who are sometimes caught in a street-involved lifestyle through no choice of their own.

The Central Alberta AIDS Network Society (CAANS) works every night to make that kind of a difference. NightReach workers go out on the streets to hand out mitts, toques, food, clean needles and condoms in an effort to bolster harm reduction measures. The personal connections they make with these folks are perhaps the most meaningful aspect of the program as a whole.

These people should be commended because it’s just too easy to pretend these kinds of problems don’t exist – especially in a city that is relatively small like Red Deer.

Without trying to solve these issues or at least reach out to this vulnerable population, the problem will only escalate as the ‘mixed blessing’ of urban growth continues.

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