News / Edmonton

'They can be safe': Boyle Street eyes old Remand Centre for new service centre

The inner city agency is pitching that services for Edmonton's homeless come together in one central location

Rendering of the former Remand Centre as the new community centre.

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Rendering of the former Remand Centre as the new community centre.

Boyle Street Community Services has their eye on the former Edmonton Remand Centre for their new community centre, which they envision as a one-stop shop for inner city supports.

Although they submitted a proposal to the provincial government six weeks ago, they officially presented it publicly at the Edmonton Police Commission public meeting on Thursday, at their request.

Edmonton Police Service Chief Rod Knecht said they were impressed with the proposal to consolidate services like detox, mental health and healthcare for the homeless, all in one place at a repurposed Remand Centre.

The site would also offer a central location for supervised consumption services.

“It has a lot of things that we as a police service has advocated for, probably the last five years,” he said. “The homeless, the addicted, the mentally ill, we wanted to keep them out of the criminal justice, it’s a concept I find it very interesting.”

The top floor of the building would house 100 people, with the areas below offering services like a 24-hour shower and laundry, and drop-in centre facilities. That way "people don’t have to be vulnerable out on the streets at night. They can be safe,” said Julian Daly, executive director of Boyle Street Community Services.

The new centre would also offer healing and services to those still experiencing trauma whether directly or intergenerationally from residential school system.

“We feel that it’s an act of reconciliation in action… we also want to have private space where there is opportunity for ceremony right at the heart of the city,” Daly said. “In many ways both in terms of actions and services, in design, culture is honoured and needs of many Indigenous people will be met completely.”

Repurposing the building would cost $93 million, which Boyle Street doesn't yet have. For the plan to go forward, Daly said they're hoping the provincial and federal government pitch in about $70 million of that.

“The rest would be donations and fundraising and contributions from the partners, potentially including Boyle Street,” he said.  

The 12-storey former Remand Centre has sat empty for over four years, as the area around has continued to develop. Daly said it costs the province close to a million dollars every year.

Redevelopment plans

Boyle Street Community Services has been considering redevelopment since 2015.

Last year, they reached out to a number of partners including Alberta Health Services, Edmonton Police, ATB Financial, City of Edmonton and 12 others to discuss the proposal to redevelop their current location.

“We realized that there was considerable interest in coming together to do something,” he said.

Nine months ago, after receiving a $250,000 grant from the province of Alberta, Boyle Street started putting the business proposal together.

Daly said he has been in talks with two developers regarding the future of their current facility on 105 Avenue, and said they hope to redevelop it into affordable housing for families.

“In the centre of our city it’s all one and two-bedroom condos and we would like to see that in our city as it lends to a fuller, richer, kind of more diverse city.”

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