Red Deer’s homeless shelter could continue operating out of the former Cannery Row Bingo building until a permanent shelter is built.
City Council gave first reading on Monday to a bylaw that would allow the temporary shelter to remain at 5239-53 Ave., where it has been operating since the pandemic began.
A public hearing on this will be held on March 29 so council can hear community input before a final decision is made.
Administration gave three reasons on Monday for allowing the shelter to keep operating in the temporary location for at least another two to three years — which is when a permanent homeless shelter is expected to be built in the city with a $7,000,000 government grant that was announced last year.
Council was told: the large site allows for adequate distancing required under pandemic regulations; it’s in the downtown, considered an appropriate area for the provision of social services; and the shelter can be regulated through land use bylaws and development permit conditions.
No recent complaints were made about loitering or other issues, councillors heard at the Monday meeting.
Three complains had been expressed over the past year by adjacent business owners about homeless clients gathering outside the facility and causing debris. But these were acted on by Safe Harbour, which runs the shelter, according to a report presented to city council.
Last spring, the City of Red Deer worked with Safe Harbour Society to find a larger space for the homeless shelter after pandemic health measures went into place.
The city initiated a State of Local Emergency and entered into a one-year lease for the Cannery Row space, which was then sublet to Safe Harbour Society. The agency is funded by the province.
The warming centre, which had also been located in a temporary trailer on site at Safe Harbour, was also moved as services were consolidated into the Cannery Row site.
Several city councillor inquired about the timelines for the construction of a new shelter, asking if it could be built by the province before three years time.
City manager Allan Seabrooke noted that even a location has not yet been determined for the new permanent shelter building. “We can try to push all we want and it will still be at least two to three years away, with their procurement and (construction) process,” he responded.