Original Published on Sep 27, 2022 at 08:26
By Ryan Clarke, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Residents in Lethbridge were given the opportunity Saturday to voice their concerns regarding a potential sober shelter being developed at the former Civic Curling Centre.
The City of Lethbridge held an open house in the City Hall foyer from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. inviting the public to join in on the conversation and putting their feedback toward what can be done to make this a successful project for the entire community.
Council members attended the gathering, hoping to hear from those they represent within the city and gather more information on how they should proceed.
“I am going to put my bias to the side in regards to the location. I want to hear what the community has to say in regards to this proposed location,” said Ryan Parker, Councillor for the City of Lethbridge.
“The feedback I’m getting from people is that this isn’t the appropriate location.”
Some councillors are in favour of a sober shelter but feel the location and the issues with recent encampments could cause problems for the shelter and the desired outcome towards recovery.
“It’s essential. It is one piece in a very long stretch of requirements that we need in order to better manage the opioid crisis,” said councillor John Middleton-Hope.
“There is a confluence of activities that occur over in this park, and if we put a shelter over in this area, there is the potential for conflict between those who are not sober and those who are trying to get sober.”
To understand the public’s concerns and issues with location, councillors are hoping to bring these issues raised during the open house to apply to the city’s decision.
“What we would recommend is that the city consult with the community first,” said Middleton-Hope.
“If the community says that is a good place for it, then obviously we got it wrong. However, if the community is supportive of moving it to another location, then I think the city needs to have a look at it from a different perspective.”
Middleton-Hope also notes he and his other council members are supportive of a sober shelter, but some feel the location needs to be rethought.
“I think we need to have something like this close to food banks, close to social services, have it centralized so it is more focus driven,” said Parker. “But at the same time, we have to keep an open mind and listen to what administration is presenting here and hear what the community has to say over the next few weeks.”
Looking for as much feedback as possible from the public, the open house was also held again on Monday from 4 to 8 p.m., with the city also reminding residents that could not make it to provide feedback online through a survey at getinvolvedlethbridge.ca.
“At the end of the day, we get paid to make the decision. But those decisions are predicted on constructive input from the public, and we have to have that,” said Middleton-Hope.