Safe Harbour Society’s winter warming centre has been approved for two more years of operation.
On Monday city council amended the recommendation to two years from three.
The temporary centre has been open since 2015, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. between from November to April. Made out of two shipping containers, the centre is located in Safe Harbour’s parking lot at 5256 53rd Avenue.
The city has been working on a shelter study to address the city’s long-term shelter needs for the homeless, as well as advocating for provincial funding for a new shelter.
Coun. Paul Harris said he preferred a one-year operational permit and was the only councillor to vote against the warming centre resolution.
A few local businesses were against the continued operation of the warming centre because of vandalism and garbage and drug paraphernalia littering the area.
“We have businesses threatening to move out of the community because of this particular shelter,” Harris said.
“I do not want to lose one more business from the downtown.”
Council voted unanimously to reaffirm its advocacy position to the province with respect to shelter, mental health and addiction; requested administration work with Safe Harbour, social services, RCMP, and the community partners to develop a plan to respond to community concerns with respect to crime, vandalism, cleanliness and safety in the area; and to bring back semi-annual updates as to progress.
Harris said sometimes the community puts the burden of responsibility on Safe Harbour for the issues in the area and that’s unfair.
“Because they set their agency up there they’re attracting people. But the problems circulating around the agency aren’t theirs to own. It’s the community’s to own. So it’s really important that we work with them and provide support for Safe Harbour Society to address some of the issues not only on their property, but the community needs to work on property around them,” Harris said.
Kath Hoffman, Safe Harbour executive director, said issues in the area existed before Safe Harbour.
“We’re not the problem. The problem was already there. We came to help with the problem,” Hoffman said.
“It’s not getting worse because we’re there. It’s because it’s getting worse all over Red Deer.”
She said Safe Harbour has worked closely with the city on its shelter study and looks forward to its implementation so temporary solutions are no longer needed.