The Canadian Mental Health Association has found a new location for its housing first program, which is currently located at the former Buffalo hotel. (Photo by SUSAN ZIELINSKI/Advocate staff)

Red Deer’s supportive housing program is on the move

Tenants at the Buffalo will be packing their bags

Tenants will soon say goodbye to the old Buffalo Hotel and move into another building about six blocks south that has space for nine more people.

For 12 years, the Buffalo has provided permanent supportive accommodation to 39 people using the housing-first model, which immediately moves people with a history of homelessness or addiction off the street and into their own apartments.

The Canadian Mental Health Association-Central Alberta Region runs the program for hard-to-house clients.

Association executive director Christine Stewart said tenants were told this week they will be moving out of the Buffalo, owned by Potter’s Hands Development, and into the building which currently houses the Econo Lodge, at 4124 Gaetz Ave., in the downtown’s south end.

The association has wanted a new housing-first facility for a few years.

“We have found an investor group that is willing to be our landlord, and they found a property that worked better for us than a new build, so we are moving into that new space hopefully Nov. 1,” Stewart said.

She said the building doesn’t need much work. The only major requirement is the addition of an exterior hallway, so everyone will enter the building through the main front door.

Since it is a motel, there’s a commercial kitchen that tenants will be able to use. An outdoor area for tenants will also only be accessible from the building.

“It’s quite a lovely space. The previous owners had done some renovations on it already. It will be good.

“We’re so excited and grateful for this opportunity. This gives us a chance to start fresh in a new location.”

She said the building is conveniently closer to Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre and many tenants at the Buffalo have physical health issues.

“We’ve been really grateful to be (at the Buffalo).”

But it’s an older building with significant wear and tear, and the association really appreciates the business people involved in the new investment group, she said.

“Calgary and Edmonton have a lot more business connections behind their capital projects. We’ve had Potter’s Hands do fair bit of work in the community. To get someone else actively involved in working on our housing issue is just phenomenal.”

Stewart said as far as she knows, the investment group wanted to remain anonymous.

She said not all tenants attended Tuesday’s meeting to discuss the move, but those who were there were very excited.

“Transition is difficult whether it’s good or bad, and we weren’t sure if people were going to respond positively. So far, they seem happy about it.”

Tenants will continue to pay the same amount for rent, she added.

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