City council has given first reading to bylaw changes allowing Safe harbour Society's homeless shelter to operate at the former Cannery Row Bingo for another year. (Photo by LANA MICHELIN/Advocate staff).

Updated: Red Deer city council gives first reading to bylaw allowing homeless shelter to stay for another year

City council had initially voted to move shelter by the end of May

Red Deer city council unanimously approved first reading of bylaw changes that would allow the temporary homeless shelter at Cannery Row to operate at the same site for another year.

A public hearing has been set for May 25 in council chambers at City Hall ahead of expected second and final readings of the necessary bylaw amendment. Another amendment is also proposed that would ensure no expansion of the existing site operations.

Last month, council voted to move the shelter out of Cannery Row, just north of Real Canadian Superstore, and gave Safe Harbour Society two months to find another location.

In a report to council, city staff pointed out the Cannery Row site was chosen as a homeless shelter in the early stages of the pandemic because it had room for those using it to physically distance and isolate themselves if necessary.

“AHS representatives have expressed concerns that any attempt to relocate the temporary shelter during a pandemic comes with a significant risk,” says the report.

READ MORE:

Petition to keep homeless shelter downtown

On Thursday, the province reported that COVID-19 cases had hit 2,048 additional cases, a record daily high. Alberta now also has 21,385 active cases.

Premier Jason Kenney announced additional health restrictions for regions hard hit by the virus, including Red Deer, which now has 722 cases.

Besides the potential health risks, city staff said there was “no way” the homeless shelter could find another location by council’s May 31 deadline and recommended it be allowed to stay until May 31, 2022.

Coun. Dianne Wyntjes asked what would happen if the move-out date was extended to November or December.

Community services general manager Sarah Tittemore said staff do not see that as a realistic timeline and moving during the winter would put vulnerable people at risk.

“Our greatest risk is a gap in service, especially during the winter and we wouldn’t recommend a six-month term,” said Tittemore.

During the next year, staff will continue to look for a new shelter space while stepping up cleaning efforts in the area and doing more to address concerns of neighbouring businesses.

READ MORE:

City council votes to move homeless shelter out of downtown

Coun. Ken Johnston, who had unsuccessfully proposed a one-year extension in March, said the same reasons he used then, still apply.

“Except COVID is even more of a concern now than it was just a few weeks ago.”

Johnston said the shelter is there for people suffering from intense poverty, addiction and trauma.

“This is not a baseball team we can put on a bus and move to another location in the city.”

Coun. Dianne Wyntjes said the success of the downtown will rely on attracting more residential development and does not want to see what started out as a temporary shelter site become permanent.

“That’s my worry about where we’re going with this.”

Mayor Tara Veer said many in the business community have lost faith that the homeless shelters are temporary.

“After eight years, there is a sense of frustration that temporary is not temporary,” said Veer.

However, the city is “closer than ever” to a permanent shelter. The province announced $7 million for a permanent shelter last year, but it is likely two to three years away.

While the community has been split on the homeless shelter issue, it has been “exacerbated by the absence of long-term solutions.”

Coun. Vesna Higham said council has an obligation to balance the interests of Red Deer’s vulnerable and the rights of the public and businesses to feel safe in their community.

The safety issues downtown have had a big impact on many businesses, she said.

“They use the word cautiously, but that’s what they feel — desperation.”

The way that services have been provided to the homeless and other vulnerable people in Red Deer has not been working, she said.

“We need to achieve a better balance in how these services are provided and I hope this process has brought that to light.”

When the shelter issue came up last month, not a single person attended the public hearing, said Coun. Buck Buchanan, who does not want to see that repeated this time around.

“Hopefully, those people show up, virtually of course, to express themselves as to what this should look like.”

On April 7, council directed administration to compile a list of potential sites throughout the community to bring back for consideration within four weeks. The report to be presented is expected to provide detailed information about process, timing and costs.



News tips

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

file photo
PM tells Canadians to prepare for one-dose summer, two-dose fall

Chief Public Health Officer says 75 per cent getting first dose is target to avoid fourth wave

Chris Scott, owner of the Whistle Stop Cafe, speaks during a rally against measures taken by government and health authorities to curb the spread of COVID-19 at his cafe in Mirror on Saturday. The Whistle Stop was shut down by AHS for not complying with COVID-19 rules. (Photo by The Canadian Press)
Central Alberta café owner and COVID-19 protester released from custody

Chris Scott was arrested at protest rally outside his cafe on Saturday

Free items can be left in front of homes during this weekend’s Kick it to the Curb event. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Kick It to the Curb runs this weekend in Red Deer

Unwanted items can be left by the curb this weekend in Red… Continue reading

Alberta Minister of Health Tyler Shandro announced Wednesday that Alberta Health will give rapid COVID-19 tests to a local chamber of commerce, who will then distribute them to local businesses. (Photo by Paul Taillon/Office of the Premier)
Businesses to get access to rapid COVID-19 tests through local chamber of commerce

Alberta Health is partnering with the Alberta Chamber of Commerce to deliver… Continue reading

A 2018 Jayco Pinnacle fifth wheel model 37MDQS valued at over $100,000 was stolen from Masco RV Storage in Wetaskiwin earlier this week. (Photo courtesy of Wetaskiwin RCMP)
A 2018 Jayco Pinnacle fifth wheel model 37MDQS valued at over $100,000 was stolen from Masco RV Storage in Wetaskiwin earlier this week. (Photo courtesy of Wetaskiwin RCMP)
Fifth wheel RV stolen from Wetaskiwin RV Storage compound

Wetaskiwin RCMP is looking for information about a stolen RV. A break-in… Continue reading

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Here is a list of latest COVID-19 restrictions in effect in Alberta

New mandatory health restrictions are now in effect in Alberta. Additional restrictions… Continue reading

Tampa Bay Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy (88) celebrates with defenseman Victor Hedman (77) after the team defeated the Dallas Stars during an NHL hockey game Wednesday, May 5, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O’Meara)
Analysis: McDavid NHL’s MVP front-runner in condensed season

Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid has 100-plus point season

Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender Jack Campbell (36) makes a save as Maple Leafs defenceman TJ Brodie (78) and Montreal Canadiens forward Tyler Toffoli (73) look for the rebound during first period NHL hockey action in Toronto on Saturday, May 8, 2021. The Leafs and the Canadiens will meet in the playoffs for the first time in 42 years when the 2020-21 NHL post-season gets underway.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Singer Celine Dion performs during her first World Tour show called Courage Wednesday, September 18, 2019 at the Videotron Centre in Quebec City. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jacques Boissinot
Songbird Uncaged: Celine Dion readies return to Las Vegas stage for 10-date run

Starting on Nov. 5, Dion will play 10 dates at the Resorts World Las Vegas theatre

An Empire Day/Victoria Day gathering of school children on Ross Street by the Cenotaph in the 1920s. On the right hand side, are members of the Red Deer Citizens Band (forerunner of the Red Deer Royals). (Photo via Red Deer Archives)
Victoria Day event helped after war

One hundred years ago, on May 24, 1921, a major community event… Continue reading

Gwynne Dyer
Gwynne Dyer: Independence is a one-way gate

Nicola Sturgeon, First Minister of Scotland declared in 2014 that the referendum… Continue reading

Boston Bruins left wing Nick Ritchie (21) and Washington Capitals defenseman Brenden Dillon (4) battle for the puck during the first period of an NHL hockey game, Tuesday, May 11, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)
Raffl’s late goal pushes Capitals past Bruins, 2-1

Raffl’s late goal pushes Capitals past Bruins, 2-1

Chicago Blackhawks left wing Alex DeBrincat (12) celebrates with teammates after scoring a goal during the second period of an NHL hockey game against the Florida Panthers in Chicago, Saturday, May 1, 2021. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
Toews’ question chases Chicago Blackhawks into offseason

Toews’ question chases Chicago Blackhawks into offseason

Most Read