I live in the downtown area.
We are in crisis mode as far as the downtown shelter is concerned.
I have had conversations with many businesses and agencies and for the most part they are in agreement that relocating this shelter will appease some people but it won’t solve the problem. It would be much better to use the money and resources to fix the problem.
One issue with the current location appears to be zoning yet this issue itself should not and cannot be difficult to overcome. There have been many zoning changes for various reasons over the years and yet something this important, and especially given the urgency, council will not approve a change to protect people who are currently not able of protecting themselves. Council has the ability to make this change.
One excuse I have heard is that some businesses won’t like it. So what? Would they rather close this shelter down and have a majority of the homeless population permanently sleeping in downtown doorways?
I strongly feel for business owners, staff and customers. Without downtown businesses there will be no downtown.
But even if a new location is found, the homeless population will still return downtown in great numbers.
The shelter needs to have it’s current location become a permanent location for many reasons:
1. Large enough space to house all needed services
2. Well positioned for rapid response from emergency services
3. More effective management of problem since all the services/resources are right there
Agencies such as Safe Harbour, Turning Point, Potters Hands Soup Kitchen, Canadian Mental Health Association need to come together at this location to be able to collaborate and work together and still maintain their autonomy. By coming together, they can provide an array of services that would help people who are experiencing homelessness.
We can deal with other issues by:
• Enhancing garbage pick up which has helped but will benefit from making improvements. This would also apply to public toilets.
• Beef up enforcement to combat vagrancy, loitering, panhandling etc.
With the cold weather coming up, we need to act on this issue now.
Joe Thompson, Red Deer