Frustrated Red Deer business owners say they will lobby the City of Red Deer for compensation for their vandalized properties if the temporary homeless shelter remains at Cannery Row for another two years.
“They’d better be providing extremely heightened security. We’ll be looking for compensation in a big way,” said Tracy Chabot, whose properties have been repeatedly vandalized, with windows smashed.
Jason MacDonald, owner of Pure Fitness Crossfit agreed with Chabot, saying, “There should be some tax breaks or compensation.”
MacDonald’s $9,000 wire fence has repeatedly been cut and his shed broken into. “Every day I would wire it up, and the next day there would be a bigger hole, and then a bigger hole,” he explained.
He recently discovered someone injecting drugs inside his storage shed. “There was drug paraphernalia, tourniquets, needles and alcohol wipes,” said MacDonald. “I kicked him out and he ran through the hole cursing me, like it was my fault.”
Despite these negative impacts, MacDonald believes closing the homeless shelter down “is not a viable option. “You can’t kick these people out, putting them at risk as we are moving into the winter months…”
He feels the real problem is that Cannery Row is too close to the Overdose Prevention Site, where street drugs are used under supervision and then clients who are under the influence are returned to the streets.
MacDonald maintains area businesses were able to co-exist with the Safe Harbour-run shelter for years before the Overdose Prevention Site started operating. Now more destructive people are being drawn to the area, he added. “From a business owner’s perspective, it’s a double negative.”
Concerns about vandalism, crime, and loitering have been expressed by many downtown property owners in the area over the last few years.
Chabot said she will once again try “rallying the troops” to get frustrated business owners to the Jan. 17 public hearing about allowing the temporary homeless shelter to remain at the Cannery Row location for another two years — until a permanent shelter can be built.
City Council gave first reading to this proposal on Monday.
But she admitted it keeps getting harder to motivate people to attend hearings, since previously efforts were to no avail.
MacDonald said, “I’ve wasted enough time at these community hearings voicing opinions that have fallen on deaf ears.”
Two other area business owners stated the same thing on Tuesday. One man, who doesn’t want to be named because a window was smashed at his facility the last time he spoke out with his concerns, called these hearings a waste of time and energy.
“The city knows exactly what the business community is going through. We’ve been telling them for years… If they want to cater to the homeless,” when businesses are “the life’s blood of the community,” then he feels it will be to Red Deer’s detriment.
Another area property owner, who also wanted to remain anonymous, said she isn’t bringing any more of her opinions to the city as “it doesn’t change anything.”
But Chabot sent city councillors another letter this week about her disappointment with their decision to keep the Cannery Row location for two more years because other options couldn’t be found. Furthermore, she feels “flabbergasted and a little concerned” about which site was selected by city council for a permanent homeless shelter during a close-door meeting Monday.
Since “two of the biggest downtown supporters,” Councillors Dianne Wyntjes and Vesna Higham, voted against this selected site, along with Mayor Ken Johnston, Chabot said she fears the permanent site could be just a few blocks away from Cannery Row.
“It’s completely unfair that the community doesn’t get a say in where the permanent shelter will be located,” she added.
Interim city manager Tara Lodewyk stated on Monday that some public input will be needed in case of a rezoning and for the permitting process.
More details about the permanent shelter site are expected to be revealed in January.