Red Deer’s winter warming centre has been granted approval to operate for another two years.
On Monday, city council amended a three-year ask to just two and then approved the request from Safe Harbour Society, which aimed to bridge the gap between now and when an anticipated permanent purpose-built facility can be constructed.
The warming centre, which is located next to Safe Harbour in the Railyards district, was originally opened in 2015 with City dollars. That money was returned later on when the province stepped forward with funding.
The pressing issue not just for council, but also one local advocate, is that Red Deer isn't yet home to a 24-hour shelter.
"It's crazy," said Kath Hoffman, Executive Director at Safe Harbour. Hoffman is grateful for council extending the permit, but laments the fact that they’ll likely have to go through this process again.
“We’re not going to build another building and move into it in two years. We have been trying to get a 24-hour shelter in this city forever,” she said.
City Manager Craig Curtis added while there is an ongoing shelter study, the City has been advocating to the province for a permanent 24-hour shelter for a long period of time.
‘If the province acted right now, it would be difficult to get a shelter up and running in two years, but of course anything is possible,” he said. “The question is obviously how the City is going to undertake its advocacy, which is really a continuation of what it has been doing for a long time.”
He also clarified that the study is not about determining whether a shelter is needed or not, but about what that facility must include.
Earlier this year, the City mailed out 22 letters to property owners within a 100m radius and received a variety of feedback, including from those who had no opposition.
In one response, Saputo Plant Manager Kevin Hyshka described break-ins to his building which has wound up, “littered with used needles.” Chelsea Harding, Asset Manager with nearby Cannery Row wrote about an increase in litter, needles, dumpster diving, graffiti and other vandalism, not to mention an increasingly uncomfortable space for the mostly female clientele at Fabricland and the liquidation centre.
“This is what I never understand is why people think we’re the problem,” Hoffman continued. “We’re not the problem, the problem was there and we came to help with the problem. It’s not getting worse because we’re there, it’s getting worse because it’s getting worse all over Red Deer.”
To address some of the concerns, Safe Harbour has installed a camera system which they say has helped considerably with theft and on-site drug dealing. Hoffman explained they've also painted the boarded up windows of the trailers in an effort to make the site somewhat more aesthetically pleasing. The windows were boarded up in the first place to prevent the windows from being smashed while the centre wasn't being used in the summer.
Safe Harbour is also working with RCMP to increase the number of spontaneous site visits. Hoffman added to council that they can't be the community police simply because the people who are causing problems are usually those who've just left the Safe Harbour property.
Hoffman said it's been challenging and that her focus needs to be on the people inside her facility.
Between November 1 and April 30 of the next two winter seasons, the hours for the daytime warming centre will remain 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
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