Wetaskiwin City Council agreed that a winter shelter could be created on City property, should an appropriate property be identified.

Wetaskiwin City Council agreed that a winter shelter could be created on City property, should an appropriate property be identified.

Community reviewing options for winter shelter site

The City of Wetaskiwin is working with local social service organizations to chart a course toward a winter shelter for the city’s homeless population.

During a presentation to council last week, members of the Winter Shelter Subcommittee of the Guiding Coalition of Homelessness asked for guidance as they look for an alternative to the current encampment at the Rock Soup food bank.

Council agreed that a winter shelter could be created on City property, should an appropriate property be identified.

The short-term goal will be establishing a safe, sanitary warming shelter before winter weather hits, following community engagement and communication.

Looking ahead, the aim is to establish more stable, transitional housing with wrap-around supports available to the vulnerable population, key to finding any lasting, sustainable success.

To do that, however — and to secure provincial and federal funding — more data is needed, which the group is also gathering, noted Misty Griffith, Executive Director of Wetaskiwin Family and Community Support Services, a Coalition member.

Community members with opposing viewpoints committed to identifying and agreeing upon values which will support this work going forward.

Both short- and long-term initiatives will happen with “respectful dialogue, compassion and empathy, accountability, both within our group and within the community as a whole, clear communication and collaboration,” said Macki Rumak, FCSS community engagement and development assistant. These values will continue to guide and underpin the decisions being made throughout the search for solutions.

Future decisions will also be informed by the experience gained at the former Hub downtown, Griffith noted.

With the direction City Council provided to the Coalition last week, the team will now explore options and potential costs, which they expect to bring to council for discussion in the coming weeks. Recognizing the importance of the issue and the need to move forward quickly, they are meeting regularly to find solutions.

“Wetaskiwin FCSS is currently working closely with the City of Wetaskiwin and other community stakeholders as a member of the Guiding Coalition of Homelessness to address the current concerns regarding the vulnerable population of Wetaskiwin,” Griffith said. “Once a plan is made, it will be communicated in partnership with the City of Wetaskiwin.”

As the community works toward solutions, Mayor Tyler Gandam urges Wetaskiwinites to be respectful of the efforts underway. “We know the current situation is not working. People from all sectors of our community are working together to find a path forward that works for our residents, the business community and those who are homeless. There is no place for aggression or violence in that process.”

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