Wes Giesbrecht, co-chair of the proposed Red Deer Dream Centre, answers questions from members of the Municipal Planning Commission. (Photo by LANA MICHELIN/Advocate staff).

Everybody wants a Red Deer drug treatment centre, but downtown location remains a sticking point

Opinions are aired at Wednesday’s development permit hearing for the Dream Centre

More than 50 people filled Red Deer city council chamber and spilled into another room for a municipal planning commission hearing for a proposal to turn a downtown nightclub into a treatment centre.

Former drug users, pastors and support workers spoke of the struggle to conquer debilitating addictions, and of how much Red Deer needs the Dream Centre that’s proposed for the former Lotus nightclub at 4614-50 Ave.

“This is a glorious opportunity,” said Pastor Alvin Rainville, of Potter’s Hands Ministries, who suggested a less desirable business might move into the Lotus if this project doesn’t go ahead.

“What is going on right now (with drug abuse and discarded needles) is just going to get worse” if the centre isn’t approved, he predicted.

While no one disagreed with the need for a local residential drug treatment centre at Wednesday’s hearing, downtown business owners and residents made a case for why the city’s centre was not the location for it.

An emotional appeal was made by Lorna Watkinson-Zimmerman, owner of Comforts the Sole store, who said the downtown is already saturated with social service agencies, soup kitchens, transitional housing projects and thrift stores. This could be the tipping point, she said, noting the vitality of the city’s core and its tax revenues are at stake.

Downtown bar owner Kildy Li agreed that the former Lotus site isn’t the right location, noting it’s surrounded by taverns, strip clubs, and other “temptations” to the treatment centre’s clients, he added.

Senior residents of the Sierras on Taylor sent 100 letters stating that having the Dream Centre only blocks away would increase the stigma against the city’s core, which is already full of social problems.

The residents’ representative, Vicki Swainson, said Calgary Dream Centre is not located in the downtown — so why should Red Deer’s? She suggested Michener Hill — where a youth treatment centre is already being built — as a more appropriate location.

Related: Here is what’s being proposed

But pressing arguments were also made for getting a centre built now in the spot where it is most needed.

Wes Giesbrecht, co-chair of the group behind the Red Deer Dream Centre, said he’d like to “to shine a light into the darkness” of Red Deer’s troubled downtown, and throw a lifeline to addicts who are causing social issues and crime.

His group proposes adding a third storey to the former nightclub. The facility would have 16 treatment units with the overall capacity to treat 48 individuals at a time for seven-week periods.

Giesbrecht feels it’s a matter of meeting these addicted people where they are, not relying on them to cross town to a less accessible location. He believes the downtown’s problems can only lessen as the numbers of addicted people are reduced.

Physician Dr. Michael Mulholland noted the province has just announced funding for 4,000 drug and alcohol treatment spots. He urged local residents to get on board with the Dream Centre, to cash in on a portion of the funding, or risk losing it to other centres.

Robin McDonald, a worker with Safe Harbour Society, feels there will never be a perfect spot found for such a project. She asked residents to “check your hearts” and decide what’s most important to the community.

A local treatment centre would give hope to hundreds of families, added McDonald, who feels it’s time for Red Deer to stop “pawning off” its social problems to centres and helping its citizens.

Most of the people who spoke at the hearing supported the proposal — and McDonald summarized the general sentiment by noting that nobody else has come forward with a better place or a better treatment project.

Since public feedback filled most of the four-hour time allotment for the hearing, Red Deer’s municipal planning commission has tabled further discussions, as well as making a decision on the matter, to Oct. 16.



lmichelin@reddeeradvocate.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

red deer city

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Whatever snow may possibly fall in Red Deer on the weekend will melt when it hits the warm ground, says meteorologist Kyle Fougere with Environment and Climate Change Canada. (File photo by ADVOCATE staff)
Weather expected to get warmer next week in Red Deer

It’s going to be a cold weekend, according to Environment Canada. Saturday… Continue reading

Retired city manager Craig Curtis will argue for keeping the Molly Banister Drive right-of-way at Tuesday's public hearing. He warns of future gridlock if the extension is removed by city council. (Photo by Sean McIntosh/Advocate staff)
Former Red Deer city manager warns killing the Molly Banister Drive extension is ‘a terrible mistake’

Craig Curtis will argue for keeping the road alignment at next week’s public hearing

Alberta has 3,651 active cases of COVID-19. (File photo)
432 new COVID cases sets another record Friday

Central zone holds steady at 126 active cases

A Red Deer County man was arrested for drug possession by Innisfail RCMP on April 19. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Property crime and drugs top Red Deer RCMP priorities in new plan

2020-2022 Policing Priorities Plan going to city council on Monday

B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson, B.C. NDP leader John Horgan and B.C. Greens leader Sonia Furstenau. (Black Press Media)
VIDEO: One day until B.C. voters go to the polls in snap election defined by pandemic

NDP Leader John Horgan’s decision to call an election comes more than a year ahead of schedule and during a pandemic

Alice Kolisnyk, deputy director of the Red Deer Food Bank, says the agency expects an increase in demand as the COVID-19 pandemic continues. Every new subscription to the Red Deer Advocate includes a $50 donation to the food bank. (Photo by BYRON HACKETT/Advocate Staff)
Support the food bank with a subscription to the Red Deer Advocate

The community’s most vulnerable members are always in need of a hand,… Continue reading

A voter places her absentee ballot in the ballot box, Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2020, at Merrill Auditorium in Portland, Maine. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Robert F. Bukaty
American voters living in Canada increasingly being counted in presidential race

The largest number of Canadian-based American voters cast their ballots in New York and California

This photo provided by Air Force Reserve shows a sky view of Hurricane Epsilon taken by Air Force Reserve hurricane hunter team over the Atlantic Ocean taken Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2020.   Epsilon’s maximum sustained winds have dropped slightly as it prepares to sideswipe Bermuda on a path over the Atlantic Ocean.  The National Hurricane Center says it should come close enough Thursday, Oct. 22, evening to merit a tropical storm warning for the island.  (Air Force Reserve via AP)
Hurricane Epsilon expected to remain offshore but will push waves at Atlantic Canada

Epsilon is not expected to have any real impact on land

A composite image of three photographs shows BC NDP Leader John Horgan, left, in Coquitlam, B.C., on Sept. 25, 2020; BC Green Party Leader Sonia Furstenau, centre, in Victoria on Sept. 24, 2020; and BC Liberal Party Leader Andrew Wilkinson Pitt Meadows, B.C., on Sept. 24, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck, Chad Hipolito
British Columbia votes in snap election called during COVID-19 pandemic

NDP Leader John Horgan called the snap election one year before the fixed voting date

Nunavut's provincial flag flies on a flag pole in Ottawa, on Tuesday June 30, 2020. The annual report from Nunavut's representative for children and youth says "complacency and a lack of accountability" in the territory's public service means basic information about young people needing services isn’t tracked. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Nunavut’s young people ‘should be expecting more’ from government services: advocate

‘The majority of information we requested is not tracked or was not provided by departments’

kk
Don’t try to teach a turtle tricks

I got Smokey at Woolworths. Woolworths was an awesome department store downtown,… Continue reading

New voluntary measures, including the encouragement of more mask wearing, have been introduced in the Edmonton health zone. “Red Deer has been very fortunate to have relatively low case numbers . . . relative to the rest of the province and the country,” says Mayor Tara Veer. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
POLL: Should Alberta have stricter rules to help prevent the spread of COVID-19?

Should Alberta have stricter rules to help prevent the spread of COVID-19?… Continue reading

Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Walker Buehler throws against the Tampa Bay Rays during the first inning in Game 3 of the baseball World Series Friday, Oct. 23, 2020, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
Buehler leads Dodgers over Rays 6-2 for 2-1 Series lead

Buehler leads Dodgers over Rays 6-2 for 2-1 Series lead

Most Read