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Chamber recommends a new non-profit to guide Red Deer’s homeless efforts

Red Deer & District Chamber of Commerce’s Homelessness Task Force releases final report
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Red Deer & District Chamber of Commerce’s Homelessness Task Force shared its recommendations on how to address the city’s homelessness challenge during a breakfast event on April 2, 2024. (Black Press file photo).

By the end of the year a not-for-profit society led by business, city, community and Indigenous leaders may be responsible for co-ordinating efforts to address Red Deer’s homelessness.

That’s one of the recommendations released by Red Deer and District Chamber of Commerce’s Homelessness Task Force based on its “What We Heard” report after eight months of research and conversations.

The task force recommends that a non-profit be developed called the Red Deer Homelessness Foundation to take over the city’s responsibilities for securing funding, establishing standards of delivery and allocating resources to support homelessness initiatives.

Task force chair Lyn Radford said the city will definitely be at the table, but a non-profit has more flexibility and can operate more efficiently than the municipality.

Based on successful models in Calgary and Edmonton, now is the time for the community to re-engage in finding solutions, she said.

“This means bringing the business and community leaders together to lead our response and rally the resources necessary to drive results. I feel the time is right to make this shift. We are small enough and an engaged community that we can affect change,” Radford told business and community leaders who attended a Chamber of Commerce breakfast event on Tuesday at the Radisson Hotel to share the task force’s recommendations.

Darcy Mykytyshyn, chamber policy advisor, said there are well-intentioned, compassionate people working on homelessness in a patchwork of systems to address a complex set of circumstances. The aim of the task force is to understand homelessness through a business lens and offer solutions the business community can get behind.

“We need specific types of housing in Red Deer, mainly transitional and permanent supportive housing. It’s at the root of the homelessness epidemic we see on our streets every day and at the heart of what we’re seeing in the downtown,” Mykytyshyn said.

Related:

Next steps on Red Deer’s permanent homeless shelter still unclear

Mayor Ken Johnston said the creation of a foundation is an exciting opportunity that needs to be explored.

“Housing is not in any way getting the attention it deserves at the federal level, particularly, so in the last few months I have turned my attention to what is possible community-wise,” Johnston said.

“This may be the start of a rebirth of an effort to really get our arms around housing stock and getting people a more secure standard of living. That’s really what it comes down to. It’s a people issue.”

He said according to the task force, a foundation formed for one purpose could be more effective.

“That’s the answer we have to find over the next six months,” Johnston said.

Former mayor Morris Flewwelling, who worked towards eliminating homelessness while in office, was very impressed by the task force’s report and recommendations.

He had his doubts when the task force was created last year, but said it is one of the best reports he’s ever seen.

“The idea of a housing foundation is absolutely bang on,” Flewwelling said.

He said it reminds him of how the Central Alberta Child Advocacy Centre was developed by bringing stakeholders together to work towards a common site based on a model from Calgary.

Related:

Chamber of commerce’s task force gathers information on homelessness in Red Deer

Raye St. Denys, executive director of Shining Mountains Living Community Services, said she was disappointed in the lack of cultural representation at the breakfast meeting. Indigenous people make up a large portion of Red Deer’s homeless and must be appropriately represented in the foundation.

“Who is going to sit at that table to ensure it’s not Caucasian-centric the way the room was this morning?” asked St. Denys, adding the foundation’s timeline is really tight.

She said by taking an umbrella approach, the foundation won’t be as focused on Indigenous issues, and the city has been working really hard with Shining Mountains to create a housing plan.

“There’s a huge amount of knowledge and expertise (at the City of Red Deer) and I’d hate to see it get lost.”

She said it would be better if the municipal, provincial and federal governments worked together as a team to address homelessness, but if the business community gets involved in a meaningful way they may be able to help.



szielinski@reddeeradvocate.com

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