By Al Beeber – Lethbridge Herald on December 3, 2021.
LETHBRIDGE HERALD[email protected]
City council’s cultural and social policy standing committee on Wednesday unanimously passed a resolution calling on the administration to work with Alpha House and the province to identify options for a four to six month emergency shelter.
The committee also asked the administration to assess and report on the feasibility of using the Civic Curling Center or Park N Ride as a sober temporary shelter and to explore and report on any other possible location for such shelter.
A third part of the resolution called on the administration to develop a business case for a community care campus.
Monica Loewen and Josh Marti, Co-Chairs of the Social Services Integration Group (SSIG) as well as Director of Community Services Mike Fox, discussed with the committee the needs for a temporary overflow shelter.
SSIG was tasked with identifying the criteria and appropriate locations for social services in the city. It is made up of community members from various areas of Lethbridge including Streets Alive Mission, Alpha House Society, London Road Neighborhood Association, Westminster Village Association, Downtown BRZ, Reconciliation Lethbridge Advisory Committee, Chamber of Commerce, Amazing Grace Community Church, Evangelical Free The church, the soup kitchen, the Town and several shops.
According to the submission presented to the committee, the Lethbridge Shelter and Resource Center continues to experience outbreaks of COVID-19 and capacity has been reduced due to social distancing requirements set by the province.
As the number of customers declines in hot weather, those numbers increase dramatically when the weather turns bad and recently the occupancy rate hit 251% of capacity, according to Fox’s submission.
The submission said with COVID being an ongoing problem and with extreme weather conditions likely to strike Lethbridge, the lack of shelter space is a critical issue for the health and well-being of vulnerable people in the city.
On November 17, the province announced emergency funding to help 14 communities provide additional shelter capacity, Lethbridge being one of them. Since emergency funding is limited to existing shelter providers, this means that in Lethbridge the shelter must be operated by Alpha House and be open to all clients, not just those who are sober, according to the submission. .
SSIG made several recommendations to the City administration to help address the concerns.
These include the administration working with Alpha House and the provincial government to identify immediate options for emergency shelter for four to six months. He recommends the use of hotels and motels that can accommodate up to 100 guests, as these facilities would not require planning permission and / or rezoning and could be up and running quickly.
SSIG also recommends that the Civic Curling Center or the Park N Ride facility be used as a temporary site for sober shelter while a permanent site is identified.
Third, SSIG recommends that the administration develop a business case for a community care campus.
The submission says that since October, the city shelter has been overcapacity with an average of 120 clients each night and up to 60 people sleeping rough outside the shelter and in other areas.
The brief asks council to be open-minded about the location of a temporary shelter since the future rezoning would require a public hearing.
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