Ren Goode/ City of Wetaskiwin

Ren Goode/ City of Wetaskiwin

Civic Building to home 24/7 Integrated Response Hub

The 24/7 Integrated Response Hub will offer comprehensive wrap-around services for those in need.

Wetaskiwin’s 24/7 Integrated Response Hub, run by The Open Door Association, is set to run out of the Wetaskiwin Civic Building this winter. The Civic Building, located at 4904-51 Street, has previously been used to house an emergency shelter in the past. However, the 24/7 Integrated Response Hub differs in that it is not a shelter.

The 24/7 Integrated Response Hub will offer comprehensive wrap-around services for those in need including a 24-hour drop-in centre.

The use of the Civic Building as the 24/7 Integrated Response Hub’s location follows a significant amount of public disagreement about the previously proposed location at the Oct. 26, 2020 regular City Council meeting.

Residents and business owners near the proposed location at 5417- 36 Ave Wetaskiwin spoke at the public hearing regarding the re-zoning of that location to make it acceptable for use for the 24/7 Integrated Response Hub.

The majority of the speakers were upset with the location choice for the Hub citing that they believed it would draw more crime into the area where they are already dealing with a significant amount of property crime and disturbances. Some businesses threatened litigation to dissuade the use of the 5417- 36 Ave location.

As a non-profit organization, The Open Door Association said that given the threat of litigation they would no longer pursue that location for the 24/7 Integrated Response Hub.

“The community turned on us before we could even get that out,” said the Executive Director of The Open Door Association, Jessica Hutton, at the Oct. 26 Council meeting about the choice of location.

This public hearing resulted in a significant amount of discussion among Council.

“I am really grateful that you guys are looking at community and trying to do the best you can to try and help us because I believe that this Hub that you have in mind is something that is going to be a vital game changer for our community and can solve a lot of the issues we have in our community,” Councillor Blatz-Morgan said when addressing Hutton. “It’s true, no matter where you put it, somebody is going to have an issue with it.”

“I feel that people will see the results of this and will be happy in the end.”

On Nov. 2, 2020 the City of Wetaskiwin’s Emergency Advisory Committee declared a State of Local Emergency that allows the City to utilize any building or facility to provide shelter and integrated supports to Wetaskiwin and area’s vulnerable population.

READ MORE: City of Wetaskiwin declares State of Local Emergency to provide immediate assistance to vulnerable persons in area

During the State of Local Emergency the City of Wetaskiwin has decided to utilize the Civic Building for the 24/7 Integrated Response Hub.

“Over the past three winters, City Council has made the care of our vulnerable population and those experiencing homelessness a priority,” said Wetaskiwin Mayor Tyler Gandam. “Offering 24-hour access to supportive programming this winter through The Open Door’s Integrated Response Hub will transform the operation of what was previously just an emergency, drop-in shelter—one that didn’t offer the resources which have been desperately needed in Wetaskiwin for decades. I know this will take time to produce significant change, but we need to start somewhere.”

The City of Wetaskiwin says it will continue to work with The Open Door Association to develop a long-term strategy for addressing homelessness in the community. Part of this strategy includes identifying a viable, permanent location for the Hub.

“The Open Door is committed to the mobilization of a 24/7 Integrated Response Hub that will provide many supports to vulnerable individuals beyond just an emergency housing component,” said Jessica Hutton. “We recognize the necessity of responding to more than just the identified homelessness emergency in order to make a lasting impact.”

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