The City of Red Deer is working with the province on building a permanent shelter, complete with an integration plan to help mitigate potential impacts on the wider area. (Advocate file photo)

The City of Red Deer is working with the province on building a permanent shelter, complete with an integration plan to help mitigate potential impacts on the wider area. (Advocate file photo)

Red Deer’s permanent shelter site decision pushed back to end of August

All of council wants to be involved in the decision-making, rather than an ad-hoc committee

A “next steps” process has pushed out the date for Red Deer city council’s decision on a permanent shelter location to Aug. 29 at the earliest.

All councillors wanted to be involved in the next step. While Mayor Ken Johnston had previously thought a decision could be made by mid-July, this is not longer possible.

Corporate communications manager Tara Shand told council on Monday the process would take longer than previously expected because a matrix is now being recommended to help councillors make the right rational-based decision.

An L-shaped matrix — with the criteria for site selection listed down the side and possible properties listed across the top — allows each option to be evaluated against the criteria through a grid system.

Also, a commercial realty company involved in exploring sites shuts down for two weeks during the summer, so the earliest date for a decision would be the end of August, added Shand.

While administration recommended site selection be based on the findings of an ad-hoc committee made up of three council members, with support from administration and considering public and technical input, council chose to go in another direction.

All of council wanted to be part of the decision-making process. Coun. Victor Doerksen said if all councillors weren’t involved, it would set the stage for more delays in future, as the ad-hoc committee’s recommendation would undoubtedly spark a full council debate and more questioning.

The full-council option was given unanimous support.

Earlier in the meeting, council heard that more than 840 people weighed in on the site selection process through a city survey, on-person sessions and emails from mid-May to June 13.

A report to city council indicated, unsurprisingly, that impact to surrounding neighbourhoods was a top concern, as well as potential impacts to city parks, trails and natural areas if the shelter is located too close to these green spaces.

Impacts to safety, must be considered, according to the public feedback received. Many people also asked for specific setback distances, or buffers, between the shelter and residential neighbourhoods and such services as liquor and cannabis stores, which they felt would hamper client recovery.

Council heard members of the public preferred an integrated shelter, with services on-site that would allow clients to get back on their feet with addictions services, skills training, and permanent housing.

The city’s senior communications coordinator, Jill Hanes, also told council that conflicting emails came in regarding a potential site south of Three Mile Bend and north of 67th Street.

Pines residents were opposed to it, as this backs onto a treed buffer around their neighbourhood, while downtown property owners preferred it, rather than keeping the shelter at the city’s core. Hanes said the Pines residents who weighed in would rather the shelter stayed downtown.

The general public stated financial compensation should be considered for property owners who become directly impacted by the location of the future permanent shelter. Many people also wanted the shelter operator to be held accountable for any clean-up or damage that occurs in the area immediately around the future shelter.

Choosing a site will be a very difficult decision, said Johnston. But he’s pleased that community members understand the importance of giving vulnerable people assistance to help them “get back on the road” to financial recovery and wellness.

City council set special council meetings on June 24 and 27 to determine site criteria. The site criteria evaluation matrix will be used to inform a decision about the location for a future permanent shelter in Red Deer.

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