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City of Red Deer

City negotiating with owner of property under consideration for new homeless shelter

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The following information is provided as an update related to the potential location for a future permanent shelter in Red Deer.

As you are likely already aware, The City of Red Deer continues to work with the Province of Alberta to site and plan for the development of a purpose-built integrated shelter in our community. This important work has been underway for many years, and our community is understandably frustrated that a location has not yet been identified, despite City Council’s commitment and focused efforts.

RECENT MILESTONES:

  • May 9, 2023: A site was approved by Red Deer City Council to recommend to the Province of Alberta.
  • June 26, 2023: The Province provided formal support for the City Council recommended site.
  • September 2023: A Letter of Intent was signed between The City of Red Deer and property owner. This enables The City to negotiate and work with the landowner to determine the viability of the potential site. The letter also requires that confidentiality of the potential location be upheld.

After receiving support from the Province, City administration began exploring the provincially-supported site in more detail; this exploration is very preliminary as we work with the landowner to determine potential viability. With it being in the early in this process, The City is not prepared to disclose the location to protect the land negotiation process, any rezoning processes that might arise, and associated confidentiality per its agreement with a private landowner.

Selecting a future shelter site has been a difficult process in that we, at times, have had limited ability to share information with our community because of the nuances related to provincial and municipal roles and responsibilities for this project, private versus public land availability and negotiation, and our desire to engage the community and be as transparent as possible as we seek to find the right place for a shelter in our city.

While we know there is no one site that will alleviate concerns for those in the vicinity of a shelter, The City is working closely with the province to ensure a purpose-built space that will not only look different from what we have now but will meet the needs of everyone in our community, including businesses, citizens, and shelter users. This is a Province of Alberta project; however, The City of Red Deer is deeply invested in this work as we recognize the impact and importance for our community.

While we are not able to share specific information about the site currently being explored, we want people to know there are many steps in the process to build and develop a shelter site, which includes rezoning. A rezoning will require a public hearing component, giving the community further opportunities to have input if the currently recommended site proceeds.

Last week, City Council met to discuss next steps as they continue to work with the Province to find the right site. We want residents and citizens to know we are listening. We hear their concerns, and we will continue to listen, adjust, and share information that ensures we site a shelter that meets the needs of everyone in our community.

City of Red Deer

City introduces new phone number to report non-emergency mental health, addiction, or homeless issues

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New streamlined way to reach Red Deer’s Social Diversion Team

Since launching in 2021, the Social Diversion Team (SDT) has been responding to calls throughout Red Deer for individuals in need of non-emergency support, whether experiencing mental health struggles, addictions issues, or homelessness.

Beginning March 1, 2024, the community will need to call the non-emergency police line at 403-406-2200 to connect with the Social Diversion Team. This move from the previous 2-1-1 call line will improve the caller’s ability to quickly connect with a Police Communications Operator who can quickly determine the nature of the call and dispatch the appropriate resources in a timely and efficient manner.

“This change simplifies calling and dispatching the Social Diversion Team,” said Peter Puszka, Municipal Policing Services Superintendent. “Red Deerians now need to remember only one contact number for all non-emergency community safety concerns and our experienced, well-trained Police Communications Operators can assess the circumstances of the call, determine which resource is appropriate and dispatch accordingly.”

Though the Alberta 2-1-1 has been the dispatching service since the onset of the program, the move to internal dispatching will simplify the call-in process, removing barriers like pre-recorded messaging and on-hold wait times, improve internal communication between the dispatchers and the responding Social Diversion Team, and allow for operators with local community knowledge to provide enhanced response.

While the phone number has changed, all other elements of the program remain the same. The two-person Social Diversion Team consists of a Licensed Practical Nurse and a Social Diversion Specialist, who respond to reports of individuals in distress. The team connects clients with the social services they need, such as housing supports, mental health supports, detox programs and harm reduction resources.

“We are excited to continue providing individuals with the right response at the right time,” says Ryan Veldkamp, Social Wellness & Integration Supports Superintendent. “We know that not every call is an emergency call, and that’s why the Social Diversion Team is the right choice for these situations where individuals are in crisis. The team continues to allow our first responders to concentrate on responding to critical medical emergencies and criminal matters.”

In its three years of operation, the SDT has averaged a response rate of 185 events per month or approximately 6 calls a day. The teams use their specialized training to provide assessment, intervention and support to those in need.

Stephanie MacDonald, Outreach and Housing Services Manager for Safe Harbour Society said, “The Social Diversion Team is very excited for this change over and believes that this will allow for a more effective and timely response.”

While the SDT continues to operate from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., 7 days a week, the 24/7 non-

emergency line will dispatch the SDT based on their availability, or utilize other policing and medical services when they are not.

To learn more about the Social Diversion Team, visit www.reddeer.ca/SDT.

When Should I call the Social Diversion Team?

If you see someone who is:

  • Experiencing a mental health or medical (non-emergency) crisis
  • Intoxicated or otherwise impaired
  • Requiring transport to appropriate services (i.e. a shelter)
  • Sleeping in an unsafe space and/or inappropriately dressed for the weather
  • Requiring social services (i.e. housing, nutrition, health or community supports)
  • Likely to come to harm without intervention

And the individual is not posing an immediate harm to themselves or others, call 403-406-2200

The team’s hours of operation are 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. However, the non-emergency (403-406-2200) line is operated 24/7. Outside of the Social Diversion team operating hours, callers will be provided with either a community referral, crisis intervention support, connected to 911, or offered a follow-up.

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Addictions

City Council decides to close Red Deer’s Overdose Prevention Site

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City Council requests the Province of Alberta make changes to OPS in Red Deer

City Council made decisions (Friday) related to Red Deer’s Overdose Prevention Site (OPS), requesting the Government of Alberta (GOA):

  • formalize an orderly transition of the existing OPS out of Red Deer by the end of 2025;
  • provide in its place greater harm reducing options within our community that focus on health, wellness, and recovery, including more detox capacity, medication-assisted treatment (MAT), recovery coaches, counsellors, and culturally appropriate health and wellness supports, etc.;
  • provide dedicated grant funding to provide a continuous police presence/enforcement in the immediate vicinity of the OPS and temporary shelter, until the crime and social disorder impacts associated with these provincial services are better mitigated for the safety and security of our public;
  • substantially increase front-line supports for mental health and addictions within our community/region to better address the root causes leading to drug and alcohol addictions.

These decisions stem from a Notice of Motion put forward by Councillor Higham on December 18, 2023. After being read into the record on January 22, 2024, a non-statutory public hearing was scheduled for yesterday, February 15, 2024. Approximately 40 members of the public attended the non-statutory public hearing, with approximately 30 individuals speaking to the Notice of Motion, sharing their thoughts on the issue.

After hearing from the public yesterday, City Council debated the motion today, with Mayor Ken Johnston now having City Council direction to take the issue forward to the province and proceed with advocacy efforts.

“The public hearing and the debate of this motion were harrowing and emotional experiences for everyone. Each of us have been touched in some way by addiction; we heard that very clearly, and I am no exception. We heard heartfelt testimony from many members of our community, citizens, some who use the OPS, some who are service providers in the community, business owners, doctors, family members that have lost loves ones, and more,” said Mayor Johnston. “Council approached this most sensitive of issues with open minds, open ears, and open hearts. We are trying to improve lives for those suffering from addiction. This is a complex challenge, as these are areas where municipalities do not have jurisdiction. What we know is that Red Deer needs robust support from the provincial government for people with addictions; we need support for our community that is grappling with the fallout of addictions; and we need that support in the most immediate way.”

Mayor Johnston added, “Following this meeting, I will reach out to the Ministry of Addictions and Mental Health to book meetings where we can discuss how to move forward in the best interest of our city.”

Currently the OPS is located 5246 53 Avenue in downtown Red Deer.

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