Those behind a newly-launched website in Red Deer say residents are fed up over what’s happening to our city.
“We are done,” proclaims standup-now.ca, which in just a couple days has had more than 800 people support their call for more action and less talk to make Red Deer safer. The goal is to gather 1,500 supporters.
“More and more people are concerned about other people in our community, about the people who are living in poverty, using drugs and the things that sometimes go with that – like crime, camps in the park, and, for some, it’s the needle debris,” says Cindy Jefferies, one of the '100 concerned citizens' behind the website.
“I think we need to focus on the people and the people who are in need of some help. Really, this is a call for all of us as a community to come together.”
Thursday night, Mayor Tara Veer shared an open letter asking citizens to elevate their voices together to the province. Veer’s hope is that the province will finally heed calls for 24/7 shelter, a needle exchange strategy, enhanced police funding and expansion of the hospital.
Jefferies says it sounds like Veer is on the same page with her group, though she disagrees with Veer’s stance that the recession is playing a big role in what’s plaguing Red Deer.
“Like most Red Deerians, I see evidence of people living in poverty or homelessness every day,” Jefferies says, recalling how she passed five homeless people Friday morning huddling in the cold rain, with their belongings in a bike trailer.
“I wondered where they slept last night. I hope they were inside. Then I wondered where will they go today because the temporary daytime warming shelter is not open.
“What is it like to sleep outside in the bush without a tent? Maybe that shopping cart is the only cover you've got. Where do they get a glass of water or go to the washroom?”
As for the seemingly growing number of questions around why The City and council continue to support things like the Canada Winter Games while leaving the most vulnerable out in the cold, Jefferies, a former city councillor, insists the two are very separate issues.
“I have to believe The City cares about people in our community. It’s just trying to figure out the best response. The Games coming to Red Deer is fantastic and it’s good for Red Deer. In the meantime, like other cities, we have some challenges in trying to help people in a humane way,” she says.
At the end of day, the website isn’t about putting blame at one party’s feet, she concludes.
“We talked about using the word petition, but we didn’t like that because we felt it sounded like we were working against someone,” Jefferies explains. “What we're trying to do is inspire people to come together and build relationships, and to tackle the problem in a very united way.”
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