From disgust to sadness and anger — strong community reactions are being expressed to the provincial government’s closure of The Hub on Ross in Red Deer.
“I think it’s disgraceful” the government has shut down the main recreational outlet for many disabled people, said Curtis Labelle, a former music programmer at The Hub whose contract ended last spring.
Labelle believes the cost-savings will be small, compared to the large gap the closure will create in people’s lives.
The Hub offered no-cost or low-cost music, drama and art programming for all community members, including the mentally disabled.
Film screenings and concerts were held there — as well as charity events, exhibits, book readings, drumming and dance circles and other gatherings.
But, according to the government, the model for The Hub on Ross “does not reflect current objectives of creating more inclusive opportunities for persons with disabilities to participate in their communities.”
Activities previously provided by The Hub are offered through other organizations, including city-run sports programs, art and day camps, said Jerry Bellikka, spokesperson for Alberta Community and Social Services.
He noted the three staff will be redeployed from The Hub to other positions supporting Michener Centre.
But Lee Kvern, whose sister, Jody, lives at Michener Centre, feels The Hub was very inclusive, drawing people with and without disabilities and allowing them to jointly enjoy an array of activities.
She calls the government’s decision “a travesty — stripping the disabled community of one of the few choices they have.”
The provincial government previously cited dwindling client numbers as a reason for closing the Michener Centre’s dental clinic, cuts to its nursing staff, to Camp L.G. Barnes for disabled people at Gull Lake, and now the closure of The Hub.
But Kvern points out that 125 people are still living at the Michener Centre and nearby group homes.
They get by on small disability pensions and cannot afford many other recreational opportunities.
She added, “The UCP could make their cuts elsewhere instead of starting at the bottom with people with few choices.”
The Hub on Ross’s Facebook page was filled with comments expressing outrage that the facility was permanently shuttered on Wednesday.
Mary Jane Porter Morrison posted she is “gutted” by the news since her daughter “talks about the Hub and the friendships she enjoys there every single day. The thought of returning to the Hub after the COVID lockdown was the biggest thing that was keeping her focused on the future.”
Elizabeth Eckert posted that her son “met so many wonderful people here and was able to act in plays, share ideas and feel supported… This is a huge loss to those vulnerable populations.”
Nicole Stephanie Marie called The Hub “a safe space,” where people with disabilities could “enhance their creativity, learn new skills and create lifelong friendships, in a completely judgment-free zone.”
Labelle, who called its closure “disgusting,” said some downtown Red Deer businesses are discussing holding events, such as game nights, for former clients of The Hub who now might not have other recreational opportunities.