Red Deer city council will face a “tsunami” of public opposition to the river-side site proposed for the permanent homeless shelter, predicted a downtown advocate.
“It’s a slap in the face to us to put a shelter there,” said Tracy Chabot, who quit her position on an advisory committee for downtown revitalization in protest.
“This is contrary to what the committee was set up for,” she explained.
Chabot can’t believe after all of the opposition to the temporary shelter site at Cannery Row that council is proposing to locate a permanent shelter site a five-minute walk away at 4934 54th Ave. — just right of the northbound lanes entering Taylor Bridge over the Red Deer River.
“People have said, ‘There goes Capstone!’ said Chabot.
Interim city manager Tara Lodewyk explained last week that this property was vetted against a number of sites and met criteria, including availability and site readiness, and was proximate to other services for the homeless population.
“We also looked at patterns of movement for the people who will be using the site,” Lodewyk had stated.
Chabot feels the proposed shelter site, on City of Red Deer property overlooking the Red Deer River at Taylor Drive, is far too close to Rail Lands businesses — and far too near the new Capstone at Riverlands. The City of Red Deer has been trying to market this area, west of Carnival Cinemas, for upscale residential and commercial development.
Chabot said some members of the downtown rejuvenation advisory committee had envisioned attracting a future upscale hotel development to this choice riverside property, and certainly never imagined it for a homeless shelter.
The lot sits next to a scenic biking trail that runs along the Red Deer River to Capstone and beyond. Chabot said neighbouring property owners already complain about having people camping and loitering in these woods and she believes the situation will worsen if the permanent shelter is built on that site.
She had instead envisioned building a permanent shelter and moving other downtown social services, to an industrial area, much like the addictions treatment centre that’s is being built in Chiles Industrial Park.
On Monday evening, the City of Red Deer had a scheduled public hearing on keeping the temporary Safe Harbour-operated homeless shelter at Cannery Row for another two years, until the permanent shelter is built.
Some business owners were planning to re-state their concerns about crime and vandalism at the meeting, as was Chabot, although she feels this decision is already a done deal. “I think the city intends to ram it through.”
Impacted businesses should start billing the city for all of their smashed windows and fence damage, she said. The idea that exempting impacted businesses from a $100 annual municipal business licence in order to help cover these damages is “laughable” — and not even close, she added.
Among the development permit conditions city council was asked to consider on Monday evening for retaining the temporary shelter at Cannery Row for two years was the installation of a screened, six-foot fence and windbreaks around the building.
Inside the fence, on the north side of the building, an interior courtyard was proposed as a safe place for people to gather, included seating and tables, potted plants and shrubs, as well as garbage receptacles.
Outside security would be needed for this gathering area, as well as camera surveillance, And the building’s entrances were to be signed.