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Prince Albert
Friday, February 23, 2024
Home City Council Plan to create downtown emergency homeless shelter stalls

Plan to create downtown emergency homeless shelter stalls

Plan to create downtown emergency homeless shelter stalls
Courtesy of The Mustard Seed website.

Councillor Dennis Ogrodnick says the City shouldn’t shoulder the blame after Calgary-based non-profit organization The Mustard Seed is unable to move forward with the development of an emergency shelter in time for the 2022 winter season

During Monday’s Executive Committee meeting, Director of Planning and Development Services Craig Guidinger said a lack of provincial funding was a “front and centre issue” for The Mustard Seed and one of the main reasons they will not be opening a shelter this year.

“They simply did not have proper permits in place,” said Guidinger.

Ogrodnick said he has received comments from residents implying the City is blocking The Mustard Seed from opening the shelter, “when that couldn’t be further from the truth.”

“I’m supportive of the idea, the concept; we all are,” said Ogrodnick. “We just want to make sure that if a shelter opens, it’s going to be funded. The taxpayers of Prince Albert, we have no place in our budget to operate a $100,000 shelter.”

On Oct. 14, Senior Project and Administrative Manager for The Mustard Seed, Taylor Kawaguchi, wrote a letter to Guidinger providing an update on the status of the organization’s proposal. According to the letter, The Mustard Seed explored two options for development of emergency shelters, one in June and one in Sept., but “both proposed locations provided to City Council were not approved to proceed”.

Coun. Blake Edwards raised concerns over Kawaguchi’s letter and disagreed with the claim that Council rejected The Mustard Seed’s proposal back in September.

“We didn’t vote on the second proposal, whatsoever, and people need to know that. The letter is a little misleading.”

Edwards said it’s unfortunate the community was led to believe the emergency shelter was coming when the funding was not in place.

“It’s a little disappointing because it’s something that we need and it toys with emotions in the community,” he said.

The Herald attempted to contact Taylor Kawaguchi with The Mustard Seed for comment by email, but received a response saying she is out of office until Oct. 31.

Along with Kawaguchi’s letter and several letters of support, City Council also received a letter of opposition from Prince Albert Downtown Business Improvement District executive director Rhonda Trusty.

“PADBID feels strongly that the addition of a homeless shelter in our Business District is a detriment to the business community,” reads the letter. “It is not that we do not have empathy for these grown adults who have made poor choices in their life- but the negative actions of these street people has already financially impacted the business community.”

Coun. Edwards agreed that the City needs to take PADBID’s concerns seriously.

“It does impact businesses and businesses are key to our community… It’s their livelihood,” he said.

Edwards added that he has heard from residents who say they’re concerned that more homeless people will be drawn to Prince Albert if more shelters are opened, and that the City should be focusing on trying to relocate people without fixed addresses back home.

“The cities are becoming the hub for communities where some people are not able find services they need. How do we work with the people that are struggling and living on our streets?” he asked.

Ogrodnick said one option that is working well in the city is the YWCA’s Homeward Bound program, an initiative that focuses on moving homeless individuals into permanent supportive housing.

Not only does the YWCA provide services like Homeward Bound, but the organization has also stepped up to open and operate a cold-weather shelter in the city just in time for the winter season.

Several City Councilllors and Mayor Greg Dionne thanked both Donna Brooks, CEO for the Prince Albert YWCA and Brian Howell, General Manager of Riverbank Development Corporation, for providing the essential service for those that need it most.

The Executive Committee approved the YWCA’s request for Administration to prepare the necessary permits for the facility’s upcoming opening so there would be no delay, allowing the shelter to open on Nov. 1 as planned.