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Provincial government approves site for Red Deer’s permanent homeless shelter

The location can’t be revealed yet because of purchase negotiations, says mayor
The provincial government has approved the City of Red Deer’s latest proposed site for a permanent homeless shelter. (File photo by Advocate staff)

Red Deer’s permanent homeless shelter project has cleared a major hurdle, with the provincial government accepting the City of Red Deer’s latest site recommendation.

But the location still can’t be revealed as the city continues to be involved in purchase negotiations with the private landowner, said Mayor Ken Johnston.

“When you get into situations of zoning and site size and servicing, the city is in the best place to negotiate,” Johnston explained.

But until a deal is reached, the city is “constrained” from disclosing these negotiations for legal reasons, he added.

Once the land is purchased, Red Deerians will be unable to directly challenge the selected location. However, a rezoning of the land will be needed, and local residents can provide their input at a public hearing.

Johnston said there’s no perfect spot for a shelter as somebody will always have an issue with it.

Council went through an “exhausting” process by evaluating more than 100 potential sites, said the mayor, who feels this location strikes a good balance between serving the wider community and the city’s vulnerable population.

“I will be the happiest person in Red Deer when the matter is concluded,” admitted Johnston, who knows many other people feel the same way.

Homelessness and addiction “remains our largest social issue by far,” so he hopes the integrated shelter can soon be built to help the city “chart a good road forward.”

Johnston didn’t want to guess when the location would finally be made known to Red Deerians, but said he would be “disappointed” if the announcement does not come before the end of this year.

This was the fourth site proposal the city put forward for a future permanent homeless shelter.

A previous property the city recommended did not get provincial clearance as it was deemed to be too close to other services. An initial site proposal by the Taylor Bridge was withdrawn when it proved unpopular with local businesses, while the third could not be acquired because the landowner was unwilling to sell the land for a shelter project.

The plan for Red Deer’s permanent homeless shelter, according to a provincial-municipal memorandum signed in 2020, is to create an improved space with integrated services to replace the temporary shelter that is now run by Safe Harbour Society at the former Cannery Row Bingo location, north of Superstore.

In February 2020, the government pledged $7 million for the permanent shelter, which would replace the temporary shelter at the former Cannery Row Bingo.