The YWCA reopened the doors of its cold weather shelter on Nov. 1 after the Prince Albert Executive Committee temporarily approved operations, but now that a formal development permit is required to continue, not everyone is expressing their agreement with City Council’s decision.
Owner and property manager of the Cornerstone Shopping Centre, Chief Operating Officer of Stockyards (Prince Albert) GP LTD., Anthony Plitt, wrote a letter to City Council on Wednesday formally opposing the temporary use development permit for the cold weather shelter proposed at the exhibition grandstand.
“We refrained from opposing the shelter’s temporary use in prior years but at this time need to bring to light the deleterious effects the placement of this shelter has posed on our shopping centre and our tenants’ livelihoods, as well as the safety of employees and patrons,” reads Plitt’s letter.
He wrote that after an increased summer of vandalism, violent incidents, and multi-night string of trash fires, the City needs to take prompt action over the situation, starting with finding a different location for the shelter.
“This will inevitably result in many homeless people congregating in the area trying to access services and resources, and not enough resources to go around,” he wrote. “Those turned away will look for the easiest way to meet their needs, including setting fires, constructing shelters, committing crimes (break and enter, robbery, and other crimes of opportunity), resulting in damage, destruction and fear for business owners and the public.”
A list of all reported detrimental activities that have occurred in this year alone was attached to the formal opposition letter, detailing over 30 incidents beginning Jan. 7 until the most recent one on Nov. 1. Plitt wrote that this does not include the constant incidents that occur weekly and sometimes daily, such as garbage being rummaged through, graffiti, fences being cut, and the slow action of the police.
“At current, our only remedy is to increase private security and to formally escort all non-shopping
patrons off site,” Plitt added. “The cost of this is being borne not only by us and our hard-working entrepreneurial
tenants, but ultimately by the people of Prince Albert through increased cost of product and services.”
He warned that long-term cost to the City by their inaction will be businesses closing and relocating out of Prince Albert, increased vacancy and ultimately, reduced tax revenue.
“The Cornerstone Shopping Centre is the primary destination for regional shopping for a trade area which encompasses the entire northern half of Saskatchewan and beyond,” he wrote. “We want to continue presenting a first-class shopping centre experience, not only Prince Albert residents, but to all visitors coming to Prince Albert to shop and dine at Cornerstone.”
Plitt suggested that the City identify a long-term shelter site that can accommodate a larger number of people in need to avoid concentrating the vulnerable population in a less problematic location, such as an industrial zone. The proposed 25-person temporary shelter is far from meeting the City’s needs, said Plitt.
He requested that mitigating measures be put in place if City Council does decide to move forward with the proposed location, such as an enhanced 24/7 police presence at the site, extended hours of operation, and adding more resources for individuals that don’t make it inside the shelter like portable toilets and garbage receptacles.
Plitt also asked that the City create a policy that does not permit tent cities be constructed in the area between the shelter and the shopping centre, and that they prioritize police responses to the area in acknowledgement of the increased risk of violent crime that a shelter would bring to the location.
On Oct. 24, the YWCA submitted a letter to the Executive Committee regarding the reopening of the Stepping Stones Shelter, which was approved in principle. City Council was greatly in favour of the facility opening, as Prince Albert had no other plans to open a cold weather shelter for vulnerable individuals for the incoming winter season.
The first Development Permit for the cold weather shelter was approved for a seven-month term from Oct. 13, 2020, to May 1, 2021. Under the previous application, a total of 20 beds were provided, with additional beds provided in emergency situations. This year’s shelter would be increased to 25 beds and will run until April 30, 2023, pending the application’s approval.
Council will discuss the issue as part of their regular meeting on Monday.