Abandoned shopping carts were seen on the northwest side of the temporary Safe Harbour homeless shelter in downtown Red Deer on Tuesday. (Photo by LANA MICHELIN/Advocate staff).

Opinion: Stop vilifying Red Deer downtown business owners

It has come to my attention that a petition has been circulating regarding the moving of the temporary Cannery Row homeless shelter.

A broad brush is being utilized to paint business owners in the downtown core as heartless for standing up against the crime and vagrancy that has disproportionately inflicted downtown businesses in Red Deer.

I would very much like to know how many of the people signing and making disparaging comments on the petition have any personal experience with operating a business in the downtown. I know of just a few that have stated they do.

For those who do not have experience I would like to share some personal experience.

Downtown area businesses have been hit with vandalism, theft, graffiti, break and enters, defecation and urination, fires and broken windows and plate glass doors, theft and needle debris and aggression from the homeless and vagrants.

Many business owners do not have government or company pensions. They are strictly reliant on the appreciation of their business assets coupled with the revenue their businesses generate to fund their retirement.

If their businesses are no longer frequented due to patrons’ fear of the downtown core, (which I might add is very real), the revenues suffer.

If their businesses suffer depreciation and they can’t sell or lease their properties, it reduces or completely eliminates their self funded retirement pensions as well as their wages which they alone are responsible for.

The City of Red Deer and the Alberta government do not repair damage and clean graffiti – the businesses owners do.

My family alone has seen several instances where these people have stolen and we have had to chase and hold them for the police, only to have their court cases thrown out due to “no fixed address” and the case thrown out.

We have seen them enter our place of business and destroy equipment in drug fuelled rage.

We have suffered all of the damage I have mentioned above.

We have heard the comments that our patrons are not comfortable with frequenting the area around our business.

We have heard a multitude of similar stories from other business owners.

Is it OK to the people who sign this petition that businesses are leaving the downtown core?

Is it OK to ask business owners who have kept the downtown core vibrant and productive to accept a completely disproportionate amount of services of this type?

These services have created a pathway downtown to draw this type of crime.

Would that be acceptable in your neighbourhood or by your business?

To be clear, most business owners are strong contributing members to charities, school organizations, fundraisers of all sorts, are keen community volunteers and it is despicable that because they are not OK with our businesses being attacked, that we are being described as heartless and only out to serve our own business interests.

Our businesses feed and house our families and allow us to fund our retirements un-aided by anyone else.

Is it OK that contributing and tax paying members of society in the downtown core should disproportionately bear the brunt of this social disorder?

I agree that we must find a solution to this problem but heaping the burden on the downtown businesses is not the answer nor is vilifying downtown business owners.

Tracy Chabot is a Red Deer downtown business owner and a Red Deer County resident.

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