A Red Deer woman says she does everything she can to avoid going to the downtown.
Sharon Fisher, 75, who owned Delicates Bra Boutique in the Towne Centre Mall downtown for about five years, said one Saturday morning someone came into her business and assaulted her.
“He beat me up and left me for dead,” Fisher said of the incident that occurred in December 2005.
“It was more than frightening. It was horrifying. I was in the hospital for a week here in Red Deer. I had to go up to Edmonton and I had an operation up there. He beat my face really badly.”
Fisher needed to get a titanium plate under her eyeball “because the cheekbone got broken” and there was nothing to support the eye.
Many years later, Fisher still views the downtown as a dangerous place.
“I, like many people, don’t go downtown. I only have to because my hairdresser is there. That’s the only reason I ever go down there,” she said.
“It used to be a real nice place downtown. I moved here close to 60 years ago. Red Deer was a small town with a beautiful little downtown – it was just gorgeous. Over the years, of course things developed, more people come and things changed.”
This past January, Red Deer city council identified a potential location for a permanent emergency shelter – 4934 54., which is just next to the Red Deer River to the west of the downtown core.
The proposed site at 4934 54 Ave., was originally a City of Red Deer Parks facility and is now being used for storage.
Fisher said she does not believe a permanent shelter should be put so close to the city’s core.
“I think the city is (going) in the wrong direction. It should be obvious what’s more important.”
In a recent online poll on The Advocate’s website, 74.06 per cent of people answered “no” to the question “Do you agree with Red Deer’s potential permanent shelter location on 54 Avenue?”
During a Red Deer and District Chamber of Commerce luncheon earlier this month, Mayor Ken Johnston told the local business community not to pre-judge the permanent homeless shelter project based on what’s downtown now.
He described the permanent shelter as having referrals for addiction treatment, mental health counselling, and housing placement. He also talked about having programs in place to divert people from having to use the shelter.
While “everyone has been doing their best” to deal with downtown problems — including businesses, social service agencies and city council — Johnston said he feels these “noble efforts” have been falling short because a more integrated infrastructure is needed to help people deal with personal crises including homelessness, addictions and mental illness.