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Red Deerians remain in the dark about site selection for Red Deer’s homeless shelter

The ball is now with the province, says Mayor Ken Johnston
Red Deer Mayor Ken Johnston. (Advocate file photo).

For the third time, Red Deer city council failed to reveal to the public which site has already been selected for a permanent homeless shelter.

Instead, a press release was issued on Thursday, after a four-hour closed meeting, indicating that more work has to be done to answer provincial questions about whether this is the best possible location.

“While The City had hoped to be in a position to release its recommended site today, further considerations pertaining to the recommended site are being jointly explored by the Province and City to ensure its suitability prior to publicly disclosing any information,” states the press release from the City of Red Deer.

When asked if this third postponement — after previous delays happened on Sept. 12 and 26 — means the province is not convinced of the suitability of the address that was selected by Red Deer city council, Mayor Ken Johnston denied this was the case.

Although the mayor doesn’t believe the city and the province are far apart on what site is best, he would not provide future timelines for when the location would finally be made public.

The city has done its duty in selecting a site, so “the ball is now with the province,” he added.

“I’d love to be able to tell Red Deerians an announcement will be made by the end of October,” he said, but Johnston feels this is a no longer within the city’s purview to say.

City council selected the location for the provincial shelter project on Sept. 12. It is now up to the province to ratify the chosen site so the information can be released, he added.

Several city councillors commented on the ongoing delay in making a public announcement as to the chosen location during the brief open portion of Thursday’s meeting. Coun. Cindy Jefferies asked the public to be a bit more patient, saying there must be a willingness to “dig deep” and resolve some questions at the “11th hour.”

City officials answered provincial questions during a meeting in Calgary on Tuesday. But the mayor said some more responses were needed from city administrators — and were obtained during today’s close-door meeting. These could be sent to the province on Friday, but government offices will be closed because of National Truth and Reconciliation Day.

“We know our community has been patiently waiting for us to identify the potential future shelter site in our city,” said Johnston in the city release. “This is a big decision, and we must ensure that we are making the best decision possible for our community – and that we are making that decision in good faith and partnership with our provincial colleagues.”

The extensive site selection process initially included 96 sites, a public participation process with more than 820 engagements from residents, businesses, social agencies, and people who have experienced homelessness.

Jason Luan, Minister of Community and Social Services states in the same city release, “I am proud to be working closely with the City of Red Deer to ensure that we are aligned on a shelter model and location that is best for Red Deer. We will continue to work closely together in collaboration to improve the support we offer homeless people in Red Deer and make the community safer as a whole.”

Josephine Pon, Alberta Minister of Seniors and Housing said her government remains committed to providing $7 million in capital funding to support the Red Deer integrated emergency shelter. ”We will continue to plan and work with community partners and the city to address the need for a larger, more functional space to meet demand. Our shared objective is to ensure Red Deer residents in need have access to a safe, accessible overnight shelter.”

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