Businesses around Red Deer’s homeless shelter have noticed more garbage clean up lately — but they say loitering and vandalism problems have not improved at all.
“I see them panhandling out in the parking lot, or trying to open car doors,” said Holly Proulx, manager of Fabricland on Thursday.
Several impacted downtown business owners plan to send yet more letters of concern to the City of Red Deer since a third public hearing is looming on whether Safe Harbour should be allowed to keep operating its temporary shelter at the former Cannery Row Bingo location past Sept. 30.
But others say they are sick of all of the hearings and won’t bother.
“Nothing changes… I have no time for that,” said Marianna Tyszkiewicz, co-owner of European Sausage and Deli who already works up to 10 hours a day in the store.
On Thursday morning, Tyszkiewicz saw a man sleeping outside the deli — with his body on the sidewalk and his head in the parking lot. Fearing for his safety, she asked a worker to call 211, but the man soon got up and left.
On Wednesday, another business owner, who did not want to be named, saw a man riding a bicycle smashing the mirrors of trucks parked behind Superstore.
While Tyszkiewicz has noticed less garbage lying around since the last public hearing on May 26, she feels that’s only one aspect of multi-fold problems for surrounding businesses.
At the public hearing, Safe Harbour hopes to sway Red Deer city council towards giving the temporary homeless shelter an extended stay at the downtown Cannery Row site because of new downtown co-operation.
“We have more people helping us now; the city is trying to help with the downtown bathroom situation, and the Downtown Business Association has enhanced their cleanups to include our area,” Safe Harbour’s executive-director Kath Hoffman posted recently on Facebook.
“Working together is the best way to do it. We couldn’t do everything ourselves,” she added.
Proulx commends the improved garbage clean up, but has had to hire a “door person” to keep vagrants out of the store. (They have stolen dyes that they use to make tattoos, as well as glue, she explained.)
Fabricland is also paying for security cameras in the parking lot, and to replace broken windows. Proulx said a store window was smashed one Friday in June, was fixed by Monday — then broken again on Tuesday.
A head-office manager had asked her “‘What in the world is going on? I have two bills for replacing the same window,’” she recalled. “It is extremely annoying” — and expensive.
Now she’s considering hiring regular security patrols for the parking lot. “I realize there’s a need for (the shelter) but people don’t realize what a hard time we are having dealing with it,” she said.
A staffer at Bianca Amor’s Liquidation Supercentre, who did not want to be named, also complained on Thursday about daily thefts from the store and about a window being broken a couple of weeks ago.
“It’s not any better,” concluded an office manager for another area business, who believes the real problem is Turning Point’s overdose prevention site, which is also nearby. The office manager, who declined to be named since several businesses were vandalized after the last time someone spoke out about the problem, knows many local shelter clients by sight. She believes they are not the problem.
People from outside of Red Deer are coming to the city to use the overdose prevention site, said the office manager, who’s seen the result: People “totally out of it” are “spinning around” and acting bizarrely in her parking lot as the drugs take effect.
Business owners interviewed on Thursday voiced familiar concerns about customers feeling unsafe because of panhandlers and loiterers.
Since children take music lessons right across from the shelter, their parents will often go in with them to make sure they are OK, said Riley Anderson, a floor supervisor at 53rd Street Music.
“As far as the garbage situation goes, it’s improved,” he added, “but people are still stealing stuff and there are sketchy interactions in the parking lot…”
While city administration had twice previously applied for an extension of shelter operations, this time, Safe Harbour is making the application.
A third public hearing will be held, but no date has yet been set. As part of the process, property owners within 100 metres of the temporary shelter site (5239 53 Avenue) will be contacted by letter to give them an opportunity to provide feedback for council’s consideration.