Locating Red Deer’s permanent shelter downtown will “slay” Red Deer’s Capstone development and continue driving out core-area businesses, says a new group.
The Red Deer Revitalization Society wrote an open letter to the Advocate, imploring city council to move the permanent homeless shelter away from the proposed site, just southeast of the Taylor Street Bridge at 4934-54th Ave. — and away from the downtown.
“A recent history …shows that the business community and the homeless and drug-addicted community cannot peacefully coexist,” stated group members, who believe this conflict has been “an under-appreciated concern” affecting everyone in Red Deer.
“Over the last 15 years, the city’s downtown has witnessed a mass exodus of businesses.” The once thriving core has also repelled some new investments, wrote the society, representing about 40 local businesses.
“It’s difficult to attract enough customers to cover the tax bill and other costs when their front door is littered with drug paraphernalia and loiterers.”
Speaking on behalf of the Red Deer Revitalization Society, Ken Heywood, a Red Deer accountant, explained on Thursday that the concentration of social services is detrimental to this area, compelling surrounding businesses to move away.
Having fewer businesses paying taxes to the city will require an increase in residential taxes to make up the money needed to run city programs and services, Heywood added.
“The exodus of business, replaced with social chaos, renders the downtown properties valueless… Unfortunately, residential owners will have to see their property taxes increase dramatically for the city to run.”
The Red Deer Revitalization Society stated it recognizes a local need for a shelter and a Overdose Prevention Site to help people experiencing homelessness and addictions — who were “crippling” the downtown even before these services were built.
“The problem… is with their location. We write this to help motivate the relocation of the permanent shelter from the proposed 4934 54th Ave. site.”
Heywood believes the viability of the city’s Capstone project is at stake since the proposed shelter would be just on the other side of the Taylor Bridge from Capstone.
Building a proposed permanent homeless shelter in the shadow of the city’s “crown jewel,” in which millions have already been invested to attract business and family-friendly developments — makes no sense, he added.
“You will see Capstone remain undeveloped, you will continue to see the mass exodus of businesses from downtown Red Deer, and you will see a significant increase in your residential property taxes.”
The Red Deer Revitalization Group is asking Red Deerians to contact city council and their local MLAs to voice disapproval of this proposed site — or any other downtown location — for the permanent shelter. “Time is of the essence.”
On Monday, Red Deer city council is holding a special meeting about a survey of downtown property owners, regarding the proposed permanent shelter site.
Interim city manager Tara Lodewyk said the results of this survey and various focus groups will be discussed and council will decide where to go from there.
She stressed the planned permanent homeless shelter will be different than what Red Deer has had to date, so should not be judged by what people have been seeing in the downtown.
It will have wrap-around services to help clients get into housing and addictions treatment. It will also have an appropriate design, with a screened courtyard and storage space, to reduce loitering and the sight of carts being left around the downtown.
Lodewyk said council decided the proposed site best met the criteria for a shelter location after many meetings were held with realtors and numerous sites were explored around the city.
“Council put a site on the table… They can decide if it moves forward or goes in a different direction.”