The temporary shelter at Cannery Row was established in March 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting need for a safe, physically distanced shelter for Red Deer’s vulnerable population. (Advocate file photo)

The temporary shelter at Cannery Row was established in March 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting need for a safe, physically distanced shelter for Red Deer’s vulnerable population. (Advocate file photo)

Red Deer city council approves land use amendment to keep temporary shelter operating at Cannery Row

Development permit considerations to be discussed on Jan. 31

Red Deer’s temporary homeless shelter is a step closer to continuing operations at Cannery Row until Feb. 2024.

City council approved a land use bylaw amendment in a meeting and public hearing that lasted until about 11 p.m. Monday night.

About seven people participated in this latest shelter hearing while 17 others sent letters or emails to council.

A few reponders — mostly other social service agencies — supported extending the shelter’s stay at Cannery Row, 4946-53rd Ave.

But the majority of commenters re-stated concerns about loitering, littering, crime and vandalism in the area and opposed the extension.

Several letterwriters told council they don’t feel their concerns were heard.

But Mayor Ken Johnston stressed on Tuesday that he’s listening to every one of the concerns, and is resolved to work collaboratively with downtown businesses and social service agencies — including shelter operator Safe Harbour — to bring about a better outcome going forward.

Johnston admitted “we are living in a very challenging environment,” with the pandemic and opioid crisis.

But he said he ran for mayor to improve the situation, so he pledged the public would soon see some “mitigating strategies,” regarding activities around the shelter — and even a $525,000 investment over two years to ensure a “good neighbour” co-existence between shelter clients, area agencies and businesses.

Council will discuss development permit requirements for the temporary shelter on Jan. 31. These include ways to enhance business and resident engagement, security, cleaning, and programs such as a safe walk program. The proposals also include creating a new outdoor seating in an enclosed area north of the shelter.

“Council recognizes this is a temporary solution to provide immediate services required by our vulnerable population until a purpose-built, integrated permanent shelter is operational,” said Johnston. But the Cannery Row site, set up in March 2020, provides adequate space to support the shelter’s requirements during the pandemic, he added.

“The decision to allow the operations at Cannery Row was a difficult one, but what we need to remember is that we are planning for a fully integrated permanent shelter” with wrap around services for mental health, housing and other needs, said Johnston.

He believes the permanent shelter will transform how the city supports people who are facing homelessness or addictions. But some downtown property owners were crestfallen to learn that the proposed site for the permanent shelter is just a short walk away from Cannery Row at 4934-54th Ave.

The zoning and development process for the potential permanent shelter location will begin in the next few weeks. More details are available on the city’s website.



lmichelin@reddeeradvocate.com

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Red Deer City Council