Red Deer’s two MLAs say they have been advocating for quicker progress on Red Deer’s permanent integrated homeless shelter project.
“I am disappointed in how slow things are progressing with the shelter,” said Red Deer South MLA Jason Stephan in an emailed statement to the Advocate on Tuesday.
Stephan added that City of Red Deer officials and the mayor’s office have been involved in the shelter consultations, however. Progress of the project “is not a secret. I do not know why city councilors are not informed on these matters.”
Stephan suggested he understood city council’s decision to give Safe Harbour two months to find a new location for the temporary shelter that’s outside of the downtown.
“While a shelter service should provide, in kindness, humanitarian shelter services for our neighbours who are homeless,” Stephan said, “the shelter also must be a good neighbour in our community, that is accountable, and respects local businesses and families in our great community.”
Adriana LaGrange said in an emailed statement, “As the MLA for Red Deer North, I have been advocating for the shelter to be completed as quickly as possible.”
LaGrange added the Shelter Project Committee “has moved forward with their work.”
She said she has been in contact with her colleagues Seniors and Housing Minister Josephine Pon and Community and Social Service Minister Rajan Sawhney and looks forward to sharing more details as they become available.
On Monday, many city councillors decried the provincial government’s slow progress on the $7-million homeless shelter, which was first promised by the UCP government in 2019.
Council was told it would not be built and become operational for another two to three years. This would push the potential opening into 2024.
“Temporary is temporary,” said Coun. Lawrence Lee, who stressed that this should not mean waiting another three years for a permanent shelter.
On Monday, Mayor Tara Veer said the city began advocating to the government for an integrated homeless shelter nearly a decade ago. It has been promised twice — once by the NDP, the party that did not get re-elected, and then again by the UCP in 2019.
In February, the provincial government announced it reached an agreement with the city on the scope of the new homeless shelter.
While specifics about location, timing and operational details were not yet finalized, the agreement states the facility will be providing emergency shelter beds, as well as food preparation, showers, washrooms, laundry and storage facilities.
The new shelter, which is being led by the province, will also have counselling, health and detox supports.
Stephan has previously stated that the service delivery design was planned for early March, followed by meetings to determine the building’s design.