The City of Red Deer has selected a potential location for a permanent shelter: 4934 54 Ave. (Contributed graphic)

City releases third-party report detailing concerns surrounding permanent shelter

Ahead of a critical council meeting regarding a permanent homeless shelter in Red Deer, city council released findings from a third-party report.

Council will hear findings of a 12-page report on Monday titled “What We Heard,” outlining what came from seven targeted meetings with downtown property owners, businesses, associations, and service providers.

In January, the city selected 4934-54 Ave. as a potential location for a new shelter.

The meetings, with 28 stakeholders were held between Feb. 16 to 23 – five of which with property owners and businesses, while two were for service providers.

According to the report, “participants in both groups expressed a desire for and the need to work together collaboratively to find the best solution for all involved.”

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“Several participants expressed a desire to work together in a committee format as long as the work and conversations are meaningful. In addition, many participants in both groups also all acknowledged the need for an emergency shelter in Red Deer and did not question the complexity of associated challenges in the community.”

While the perspectives differed on a number of issues, the report noted that the groups agreed on a number of issues, including they felt concerns weren’t being heard by the city, decisions were rushed, the process hasn’t been transparent, trust has been broken in the community, uncertainty about how the business community can continue to operate and a lack of clarity about what an integrated shelter really is.

Of the 22 property and business owners in the meetings, most are strongly opposed to the proposed permanent site. They indicated their business can’t co-exist in close proximity with an emergency shelter and an overdose prevention site.

“Citing the current issues they experience with the temporary shelter would make them permanent issues in the business community. They feel the decision has already been made and that this engagement is not genuine,” the report read.

Among the issues are criminal behaviours and safety that affects their ability to do business.

“Participants cited a lengthy list of offensive and criminal behaviours that are impacting staff, clients, tenants and their own families,” the report noted.

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“They shared that these behaviours take place both inside and outside their buildings, and include activities like using drugs, having sex, defecating, and vandalism, which they indicated are responsible for driving business away and making staff and family members feel unsafe.”

In the report, the group of businesses make clear they recognize the need for a shelter but want a separation between the two communities.

Of the six non-profit and service agencies that attended two meetings, most said they’re frustrated with constant start and re-starting of the process, as well as the time it’s taken to garner provincial funding.

These organizations say once the site is approved, plans can go ahead to make sure the location addresses the concerns of the business community. They are concerned if the process is delayed, it could mean they would lose the $7 million proposed by the provincial government.

There is also a concern about the fate of the temporary shelter if the permanent shelter isn’t approved.

“In general, these agencies stated they want to do what’s best for the vulnerable population and that knowing where the permanent shelter is the key to moving forward,” the report read.

“They also indicated they would still want to continue working with the city if this site is not approved but noted it would feel like a repeat of previous conversations.”

The open portion of Monday’s special council meeting to discuss the report will start at around 1:30 p.m. Monday.

To read the full report, visit www.reddeer.ca/media/reddeerca/whatx27s-happening/Maven-Strategy—-What-We-Heard-Report—-March-2022.pdf