At the Monday May 10, 2021, regular City Council meeting, City of Wetaskiwin Council voted to revoke the Open Door’s 24/7 Integrated Response Hub and emergency shelter’s use of the downtown Civic Building.
“It was extremely tough, I think no matter how a person voted on Monday, you saw both sides of it. You saw the safety concerns, that feeling of safety that the businesses and the patrons of our downtown felt,” said Mayor Tyler Gandam.
“We also felt and saw the impact of what the hub was doing in terms of the programming available to the vulnerable clientele.”
Clients and operators of the Hub are now facing an uncertain future as the Open Door Association has less than 90 days to find a new location for the emergency shelter. A challenge which is only amplified by the fact that there are currently no locations in the Wetaskiwin area that have proper zoning for the Hub, which means that whatever location they choose will have to go through a zoning process before move in is possible.
At a zoom meeting hosted by the Leduc, Nisku and Wetaskiwin Regional Chamber of Commerce on May 13 for community discussion and presentations on the impact and goals of the Integrated Response Hub, Chief Inspector for the Wetaskiwin RCMP, Keith Durance stated that the local RCMP have already seen a decline in Wetaskiwin’s crime rates since the implementation of the Hub in November 2020.
Durance says that in the last six months the Wetaskiwin RCMP has seen 40 plus per cent less prisoners in the cell block and significantly less calls for service in relation to this client group.
During the meeting he reiterated that the homelessness, crime and addiction issues in Wetaskiwin is a multi-year issue that needs to be tackled if the city wants to see any improvement in the next decade.
He asked community members to look at the bigger picture and have patience with the process.
“It’s going to take a community’s effort until we can find a solution,” said Durance.
Over the past six months the Hub has offered support programs to 250 people out of the Civic Building. Although it was clear from the start to both parties that the city-owned building was a temporary location, the sudden timeline to move is a shock to the Open Door.
“The Open Door is extremely disappointed and appalled that the city would make a decision like this and that there are some councillors that feel that this is appropriate for clients,” said Jessica Hutton, executive director of the Open Door Association.
“Obviously, our stance is that these are humans that are very sick and need a lot of help. And with no place to go, we have monumental concerns about what’s going to happen to the population.”
Hutton said that the City’s decision has left them in limbo, with the potential of 280 people transitioning back into homelessness.
“There is no back up plan,” Hutton said at the Chamber hosted zoom meeting.
“We are feeling rather helpless right now as what to do because this is obviously our worst case scenario.”