Disturbances prompt Wetaskiwin to close emergency shelter

Citing increased threats, assaults, vagrancy and other crime, the City of Wetaskiwin has voted to close its emergency shelter early.

Dozens of members of the public attended a special meeting Thursday to discuss problems stemming from the emergency shelter in the downtown Civic Building, also referred to as Old City Hall.

The shelter’s contract called for its closure at the end of March.

Mayor Tyler Gandam said he has volunteered at the shelter and seen both positive and negative incidents.

Gandam said he has witnessed threats, arguments and fights, and heard other complaints as well.

“The shelter has become a flophouse for up to 100 guests,” said Gandam, who added he felt it was unfortunate that a much-needed service was harmed by bad behaviour.

“I’m not giving up. It’s just that the current situation isn’t working.”

The mayor made a motion to close the shelter as soon as possible after conferring with Lighthouse Ministries, the church that runs the shelter under funding from the City of Wetaskiwin.

Gandam noted that last year, the city had provincial help in funding the emergency shelter. This year, no funding was received.

The city has been solely funding the emergency shelter, and that fact seemed to be a point of contention.

Gandam said last fall, he spent quite a bit of time trying to find partners who could help operate the emergency shelter, but could find no support.

“I had no provincial help,” said Gandam. “I had no help or communication with any of the four (Indigenous) bands.”

The mayor said the shelter’s purpose was to help homeless people in Wetaskiwin when the weather turned bitterly cold, but other problems were coming to the forefront.

“It is a mental health and addictions issue. But the shelter is not addressing the problem we have in the city. It’s magnifying it.”

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