In one week almost 1,700 people have added their names to an online campaign calling for a temporary shelter for homeless who are addicted to drugs in Red Deer.
The online site — Stand Up for A Safe Community — went live Sept. 19 after 100 concerned Red Deerians, from every walk of life, were finally fed up with the overdose deaths, drug use in public, and needle debris — and they are demanding action.
They want housing and health ministries to provide capital and operating funding for a 24/7, temporary facility for homeless who are actively using drugs that has space to store their belongings, access to safe consumption and other heath services.
Kath Hoffman, executive director of Safe Harbour that runs a medical detox and an overnight mat program for people who are intoxicated or on drugs, said whether it’s a business owner who is worried about the impact of the drug and homeless issues on their business, or someone with a drug-addicted loved one, they are standing together through this initiative.
“I think that’s the beauty of Stand Up Now. It’s an invitation to everybody for whatever reason,” Hoffman said Wednesday.
“Lots of people are really concerned and typically there’s not a place, or a way, for those people to get their voices heard. So the idea of bringing everyone together is really cool.”
She said Safe Harbour is happy to add its voice in support of solutions.
The province has responded to the crisis by funding the medical detox and the upcoming overdose prevention site, but more is needed, she said.
“We’re doing what we can with the Band-Aids that we have on services.”
She said the most important thing Safe Harbour does is keep a connection to people who are otherwise disconnected in the community.
“We’ve got to give these people some grace and every time they’re looking up to say help, we’ve got to be there, because one time it’s going to take. And these are the people in our community, those moms and dads and brothers and sisters —everybody,” Hoffman said.
The safe community campaign started about the same time that Mayor Tara Veer, on behalf of city council, called for — as it has previously — a 24/7 shelter, residential addictions treatment, sufficient funding for urban policing, a provincial strategy to prevent the proliferation of contaminated needle debris, and expanded capacity at Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre.
She said the city is strongly aligned with the grassroots community movement and stands in solidarity before the provincial government.
“While the city is doing all that we can, we absolutely need, because they are social and health mandates, we need the support of the provincial government. If we’re going to accomplish that as a community, we need our community voice to align,” Veer said on Wednesday.
She said while the city hosts the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association convention this week, council will be meeting with Community and Social Services Minister Irfan Sabir about a shelter and hope to meet with Health Minister Sarah Hoffman.
Stand Up for A Safe Community can be found at https://standup-now.ca