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Safe Harbour Society says it has only 2 weeks to find new location for temporary homeless shelter


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From the Safe Harbour Society

Safe Harbour is committed to building a safe and healthy community.

On behalf of the Board of Directors and the Safe Harbour Crew, we would like to thank all of you who have reached out to us to express your concern and support in regards to council’s decision on March 29th to not extend our zoning for our temporary shelter.
To all of the families and friends of the people we serve, we want to tell you that we are committed to serving your loved ones and we will continue to do all we can to honour that commitment although our capacity may be severely reduced.
Although council has given us two months to find a new location, in reality we only have two weeks. There are no areas zoned in the city for this type of service and that process generally takes six weeks. Right now we are trying to identify possible locations that will meet the public health and COVID requirements and is inclusive of the needs of the community. We will present our findings to the city for their initial approval as soon as possible.
“For the past 19 years Safe Harbour Society has been helping to build a safe and healthy community. The overwhelming complex health needs of the people we serve, combined with the continual temporary facilities we’ve had to operate from, challenge us tremendously,” said Kath Hoffman, executive director of the Safe Harbour Society.
Our shelter serves the mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters and sons and daughters of our community who are experiencing homelessness and struggling with addiction. The Mustard Seed welcomes people who are sober and starting their journey of recovery. The two of us work very closely together to ensure we have enough shelter spaces to meet the needs of the community.
“As a physician with over 30 years of experience, I have seen that the people we serve in the shelter have complex medical and mental health needs,” said Dr. Michael Mulholland Physician, lead of Safe Harbour’s Medically Supported Detox Program. “Moving shelter services away from where this population is will not help us to address these complex social and medical issues or make an easy transition to stable housing and recovery.”
During the day our skilled staff operate a drop-inprogram where they connect people with housing, health services, medically supported detox, referrals to addiction treatment, a cultural connection and outreach support. Our guests also have access to bathrooms, showers, storage and laundry space.
Currently the program:
Welcomes 100 to 120 people per day on average for drop-in services. If we are unsuccessful in finding another location the drop-inservice will no longer exist
· On average every day 15 to 20 people utilize the day-sleep program. If we are unsuccessful in our attempts to find a new location this program will no longer exist
· The shelter offers overnight sleep to 50 to 60 people. If we are unsuccessful in our attempt, we may be able to accommodate eight to 10 people in our main building
· Our main building has space that was converted to a detox isolation space during COVID. We would have to send those people to the hospital for that care in order to use the space to shelter eight to 10people.
· The shelter program has a 24-hour two-member Paladin security team that will be lost to the community.
“We understand completely the frustrations of the downtown business community and it is important for us to explain the impact that moving this shelter will have not only on the people we serve but on the general community,” said Buzz Vander Vliet, board chair at Safe Harbour Society.
If we can’t find another location:
· There will be 100 to 120 people a day on average with no where else to be and 50 people on average every night who won’t have a safe place to sleep.
· There will be an increased demand on our critical RCMP and EMS services
· There will be no bathrooms in the area.
· There will be no place for concerned citizens to refer people to that they see in distress.
· There will be no harbour of safety for the people on the street who are in danger or fleeing a violent situation and we can’t reassure families that their loved ones are being watched over and connected to resources and medical support.
“The Central Albertans who use our services and their families remind us daily how much more there is to do. Our local medical professionals and partner agencies are as committed as we are to improving the health and housing outcomes for this highly stigmatized group of people”, said Colleen Markus, program manager of shelter services at Safe Harbour.
In closing, we want to especially thank the teams in the Ministry of Community Social Services, the Ministry of Seniors and Housing, Alberta Health Services, and our local medical professionals. They all have been steadfast in their efforts to ensure support of this shelter service not only for the people we serve at Safe Harbour, but for all Albertans who have loved ones lost in the world of addiction.

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Every day is a new day!

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Every day is a new day!

Life was challenging for Steven after a series of 5 heart attacks that have affected his physical and mental health over the last 10 to 12 years. Steven became quite isolated and had little interaction with anyone.  He was on a number of medications which changed over time, yet he never felt good. He also tried different doctors and finally ended up with one who referred him to the RDPCN. He has taken both the Happiness program and the Moving on with Persistent Pain program twice, and also taken Health Basics, Anxiety to Calm, Quit Smoking, and used the services of a pharmacist and mental health counselor.

The PCN staff has connected him with other community resources such as the Golden Circle. His medication has been decreased and he has gained perspective on different healthy solutions to his challenges.

Steven says the PCN has made a tremendous difference in his life. He has gained social skills and confidence which started through interacting with the PCN staff.  Gradually he has put his foot forward and used the skills he learned to connect with other people and programs.  He is a very different person than he was two years ago. It is much easier for him to talk to people. He does lots of walking using his walker. And he has a much healthier perspective: Every day is a new day and he makes the most of it!

Steven’s wife and daughter have attended PCN programs on his recommendation and loved them. Steven says every connection with the PCN has been is very positive and very educational!

Click here to learn more about the Red Deer Primary Care Network.

Cick here to read more success stories from the PCN.

Health Basics is a Very Good Program for Overall Health

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History of Red Deer’s Second Courthouse

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It has been witness to a great many events and stories in the 90 years it has stood on the corner of Ross Street and 49th Avenue in Red Deer.

The Gaetz Company building as seen in 1912. It was the courthouse for the region from 1916-1931. It is the current site of Mason Martin Homes. Canada’s first female juror served in this courthouse in 1922.  Photo courtesy City of Red Deer Archives photo.

As the solidly constructed anchor for both provincial and the Court of Queens Bench for 52 years, this sturdy structure has also been a sanctuary for artists, the setting for movie productions and most recently home to numerous professional offices. It also was the backdrop for the last murder trial in Alberta which saw the defendant sentenced and hanged under capital punishment in the province.

Construction of the new courthouse well underway. City of Red Deer Archives photo P2610

This readily recognizable icon celebrated the anniversary of its official opening earlier this month and is showing no signs of retiring any time soon.

View of the Lyndall Limestone columns in the Palladian Style entrance. Photo by Duane Rolheiser.

This was the second courthouse for the steadily expanding central Alberta city. The earlier one had opened in 1916 after having been converted from a coverall factory. Talk about being adaptive and creative!

Construction of the “new” courthouse was significant for many reasons. The Great Depression was in full swing so this project provided a much-needed injection of both money and jobs into the community along with a sense of pride that such a fine building would bring to the region.

Brick exterior with Lyndall Limestone detailing. Photo by Duane Rolheiser

This would be the last courthouse built in the province until the 1950s, the final version  of a series of Alberta courthouses built in the classical revival style. Both Wetaskiwin and Medicine Hat received similar structures during this era.

Testament to the quality of the design and materials used in construction of the building is the fact that it remains steadfast after more than 8 decades of use.

Constructed using hot riveted steel beams, brick and mortar, then graced with pillars shaped from the legendary Lyndall Limestone from Manitoba, this grand historical resource will stand for a great many more years to come.

Original 1912 era boiler. Converted from coal to natural gas.
Photo by Duane Rolheiser.

In the spirit of the type of practicality and resourcefulness often seen during the depression, heating for the building would be provided by a boiler built in 1912 and  repurposed from a ship!

It was converted from coal burning to natural gas in 1949 and has since been replaced by modern, efficient boilers yet it still remains in the building as evidence of a different era.

Every building of a certain vintage usually carries a story or two about otherworldly spirits or energies. Why not the old Courthouse? It was thought that the ghost of Robert Raymond Cook inhabited the building.

On one particular evening, the caretaker for the courthouse was heading into the boiler room to grab some tools. When he flicked on the lights, they popped briefly and went dark. Despite this, the caretaker walked alongside the boiler in the direction of his tools when suddenly he was slapped in the face by an unexpected soft force! Was it the apparition of the hanged murderer?

When he had regained his composure a time later, the caretaker investigated the boiler room once more to discover the source of the slap in the dark. A frightened pigeon had flown up in his face when startled in the boiler room!

Judge bench in the original courtroom. Photo by Duane Rolheiser

This magnificent building was the home of the judicial branch of the province for the Red Deer region from 1931 to 1983 when its replacement was constructed just down Ross Street to the east.

A law office has made good use of the original architecture. Photo by Duane Rolheiser.

The courthouse was the venue for a great many legal tales over the years but probably none more famous than the 1959 murder trial for 21 year old Robert Raymond Cook of Stettler, AB who was accused of murdering all 7 members of his family in a most violent manner.

RCMP mugshot of Robert Raymond Cook, 1959. Photo used with permission by Legal Archives Society of Alberta.

His trial began on November 30th, 1959 and Cook was found guilty and sentenced to hang for his crimes. His defense appealed the conviction and a second trial was held in Edmonton but his conviction was upheld on June 20th, 1960.

On November 14, 1960, Robert Raymond Cook was hanged. His death sentence was the last ever carried out in the province of Alberta.

the actual witness bench where Robert Raymond Cook would have sat Photos by Duane Rolheiser.

Numerous books were written about this trial as the murders captivated and horrified the population who followed the course of the investigation and trials.

Even a dramatic play was created, called “The End of the Rope”, reenacting this historic trial which was developed and was even staged in the actual courtroom where the all too real drama actually took place all those years ago.

exterior of the courthouse while it was home to the Community Arts Centre in the 1980s. Photo courtesy Red Deer Archives.

In 1983, the  building was sold to the city of Red Deer for a dollar and turned into the Old Courthouse Community Arts Centre. The grand structure housed painters and potters among numerous artistic pursuits for 18 years

An artist displaying his works during a Christmas arts fair in the courthouse, 1987. Photos courtesy City of Red Deer Archives.

The old courthouse has seen real life dramas and reenactments of legal dramas including being the location for filming  scenes from the TV Movie, “While Justice Sleeps” starring Cybil Shepherd in 1994.

Even a dramatic one-man play was created by Aaron Coates called “The End of the Rope” in 2003, re-enacting this historic trial. It was developed and staged in the actual courtroom where the all too real drama actually took place all those years ago. Cook’s lawyer, David MacNaughton even answered questions from the crowd after the performance.

Promotional ad for the TV movie “While Justice Sleeps” starring Cybil Shepherd. Photo from IMDB

The old courthouse made its most recent transformation in 2001 when it was purchased by Jim Dixon and Dick McDonell.

Interior details.
Photos by Duane Rolheiser.

The new owners invested close to a quarter of a million dollars in upgrading the building including installation of new boilers, restored doors, energy efficient windows and new flooring  throughout. 1930s era lighting was sourced to replace fluorescent fixtures, giving the rejuvenated structure a proper historical feel.

Today this 90-year-old icon of downtown Red Deer proudly carries on as the home to numerous professional organizations from lawyers to architects and with its new owners and numerous upgrades, this beautiful structure should be proudly welcoming people to downtown for a great many more years to come.

Red Deer’s old courthouse sits as the centrepiece of Red Deer’s historic downtown and is celebrating its 90th birthday. Come spend some time downtown. Visit the city’s unique Ghost Collection, many of which are within a few blocks of the Old Courthouse.  For more information on leasing opportunities in this beautiful building, please email Davin Kemshead or phone 403-318-6479.  


How the Railroads Shaped Red Deer






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