By COLLIN GALLANT on July 28, 2021.
A day shelter set up on North Railway Street will begin the process of winding up operations sooner than expected, just as criticism from businesses neighbouring the facility is ramping up.
The shelter, currently located at 435 North Railway St., was set up as a response to COVID health restrictions that limited access to public buildings and other places vulnerable and homeless population typically gather.
Most such restrictions were lifted on Canada Day by the provincial government, and now the provincially-funded emergency shelter will only operate on weekends ahead of an Aug. 31 closure date. It was originally funded until the end of September, but officials said that with lessened restrictions and fewer COVID cases, the need is decreased.
“The emergency daytime shelter has met the need of the vulnerable population since it first opened in December 2020,” said Jamie Rogers, of the Medicine hat Community Housing Society. “(It) was never intended to be a long-term solution for a daytime location and meaningful activity for those experiencing homelessness.”
She said agencies, including shelter operator, McMan Youth, Family and Community Services, are “pivoting” to expand other programs for shelter users.
The location, which became the focus of a controversial city permitting process last April, was selected after downtown businesses objected to the winter shelter’s location near the intersection of Third Street and Sixth Avenue.
Eventually, McMan presented a mitigation plan to avoid conflict with neighbouring businesses at the new location, including security guards, staff assessment and cleanup of adjoining property.