Red Deer getting $7 million for 24/7 homeless shelter

By Josh Hall (Twitter: @Vancan19)
March 14, 2019 - 3:12pm Updated: March 14, 2019 - 3:45pm

Red Deer is getting a $7 million 24/7 emergency homeless shelter.

Minister of Community and Social Services Irfan Sabir was in town on Thursday to make the announcement alongside local MLAs Kim Schreiner and Barb Miller, as well as Mayor Tara Veer.

The facility will have 120 beds and offer wrap-around supports for the city’s most vulnerable, which when they were last counted in early 2018, numbered 144 people.

“We heard loud and clear that Red Deer urgently needs more shelter space and support to meet the needs of the community’s most vulnerable citizens,” Sabir said at City Hall. “That’s why we are stepping up and providing the funding to get this underway. This funding is a first step, and we’ll continue to work with the city and community partners to address issues that matter to Red Deer.”

Mayor Tara Veer lamented how the shelter void has complicated matters since the closure of Berachah Place in 2014.

“This allocation of funding for a 24/7 shelter in Red Deer will go a long way to meet the safety needs of Red Deer’s most vulnerable citizens, and will enable those in need of emergency shelter to access programs, services and, ultimately, options for more permanent supportive housing,” she said. “A 24/7 shelter is one of Red Deer’s most critical social infrastructure needs, so this announcement is welcomed by the city.”

Meanwhile, Kath Hoffman, the executive director at Safe Harbour Society, where there is currently a temporary warming centre operating, said this is a day to celebrate.

“This is a long time coming, the result of lots of peoples’ hard work and advocacy. City council never gave up, and Mayor Veer was doing everything she could to make this happen, while we were on the frontlines trying to keep it all together. This is great news for Red Deer.”

The province notes that this capital funding is in addition to the $3.8 million in annual provincial funding currently provided for Housing First programming and $1.1 million to operate People’s Place and the Winter Warming Centre.

Another $324,000 was recently added so that that warming centre could extend its operations through the summer.

Sabir noted that the homeless shelter project’s construction could get underway this year with completion targeted for the end of 2020.

A location for the shelter is yet to be determined.

Sabir, who commended the advocacy of fellow NDP MLAs Schreiner and Miller, was also asked why it took until now to make this commitment, one which Red Deer has been requesting for years.

“On this particular issue, last year it got compounded with the opioid crisis. I’ve worked with the mayor’s office and city council and we worked out a solution,” he stated. “We took the needed and necessary time to get this right.”

He concluded by noting that the money is guaranteed and that the project will go ahead regardless of the results in the upcoming provincial election.

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