News / Edmonton

Hope Mission green-lit to expand inner city homeless shelter despite community push back

Community representatives said the proposed shelter should wait until Edmonton finishes its inner-city wellness plan

A rendering of the new shelter that Hope Mission wants to build.

Metro File

A rendering of the new shelter that Hope Mission wants to build.

Despite pushback from the surrounding community, Hope Mission has been granted the go-ahead to expand one of its inner city homeless shelters.

The Subdivision and Development Appeal Board gave approval Wednesday for the overhaul of the Herb Jamieson centre, located at 10014 105A Avenue, which will see it grow to accomodate a maximum 400 every night.

Their current building sleeps 350 people every night, and an additional 50 can stay in two trailers in the parking lot.

Hope Mission had recently applied for a permit to demolish the shelter for something new, arguing expansion would allow them to construct a building that’s better than what is currently there — it would feature a rooftop garden and landscaping.

“They could grow vegetables or fruit, or have a barbecue, so they’re not on the street potentially causing a disturbance,” said Jim Odishaw, a board member with Hope Mission.

But community groups and nearby businesses felt differently.

Phil O'Hara, president of the McCauley Community League, said the city is jumping the gun by allowing the expansion, arguing it should be put off until Edmonton outlines its new inner city wellness strategy — which aims to get people off the street though longer-term housing solutions rather than adding more temporary shelter space.

Another view of the rendering.

Another view of the rendering.

“We agree we need support services and housing for people who are vulnerable in the community,” he said. “Expanding this shelter is inconsistent with this new direction the city is going.”

Brenda Chao, owner of Garden Bakery in Chinatown, agreed.

“It’s a temporary shelter, and so they go wherever during the day into Chinatown,” she said. “Some sleep on the sidewalk, vandalize things. It’s not good for business.”

But Hope Mission director Bruce Reith said the project, which has yet to receive government funding, is crucial, as homeless Edmontonians still require places to sleep.

“People need shelter and we want to get them off the street,” he said.  “If the homelessness problem is solved in five to 10 years, then we’re not going to have a shelter.”

On top of that, only about 4 per cent of the centre’s clients are regulars that would need supportive housing, Reith adeed. The other 96 per cent are those who just need a space to sleep before heading up north or west for work.

“It’s not like we are doing this without any one knowing,” he said. “We’ve shared these plans with that committee (looking at the inner city wellness strategy.)”

After hearing both arguments, the board voted in favour of the development. However, it will take 15 days until the agreement is official on paper. 

Hope Mission will ask the government to fund $8 million for the $16-million project. The other $8 million will come from fundraising efforts. If all the stars align, they hope to have the new building operational in 2019.

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