A Red Deer man is determined to keep building tree fort shelters to help homeless people get through the winter — even though this breaks City of Red Deer rules.
Ryan Drummond sent in photographic evidence of the elaborate shelters he’s continuing to build in more remote forested spots within city limits. But this time, he said, he’s making them even harder to find.
One of three forts he’s working on will be buried under dirt and branches once it’s finished: “Chances of anyone finding it are slim to none,” said Drummond, in an email to The Advocate.
He got in touch because he wants to focus more public attention on the plight of homeless people in the winter.
Drummond believes there isn’t enough affordable housing in Red Deer, so he intends to keep building basic, rustic shelters in treed areas around the city.
According to city officials, living in the woods is unnecessary and unsafe, and building in the park is inappropriate and contrary to bylaws.
City parks workers routinely take apart any camps or make-shift shelters they find in parks or woods, after first leaving a note to warn possible inhabitants to remove their belongings.
One of Drummond’s hidden forts was discovered last summer in the ravine below Parkland Mall and reported to the city, but he believes it’s still worth spending his nights building more.
The local businessman, who’s been homeless in the past, feels empathy with people who have no place to stay. He said he intends to eventually lead certain “respectful” people to the insulated forts so they have some winter shelter.
“I’m not putting up a place to do drugs or to drink.”
Drummond explained he’s using his own tools and donated supplies to build the forts because he’s heard some people fear staying at shelters, concerned about violence.
City officials strongly encourage people in need of housing to contact Safe Harbour and get their names added to a housing-first list.
But there were already 42-plus names on it at the end of August.
Safe Harbour’s executive director, Kath Hoffman, predicted a shortage of transitional housing in Red Deer will mean a lot of people will have to cope in shelters this winter, as they wait to get a more permanent roof over their heads.
According to Safe Harbour’s shelter services manager, 15 to 20 people are sleeping each night at the warming centre that has 20 mats available for those with no place to go.
The 26-bed mat program for those who are intoxicated or high, is also usually full, while an estimated 130 people use the daytime warming centre.
Also, The Mustard Seed runs a dry shelter in Red Deer with 11 beds for women and 35 for men.