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HIV North denied development permit

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This morning’s Community Growth Committee meeting was packed with people both for and against a development permit for HIV North’s new home. The organization moved into a building near the Salvation Army and Swanavon neighbourhood at the beginning of September.

The Committee heard about issues with an increase in garbage, drug use, and theft in the neighbourhood. Colleen Tarrant lives in a condo building next door and says that while she believes HIV North provides a good service, this isn’t the right spot.

“We are opposed to having another community outreach facility right next door. There is a huge saturation in that neighbourhood of those services and there is no buffer between a residential complex such as hours.”

The committee voted against the permit for a Community Outreach Facility, but HIV North has two weeks to appeal the decision. Executive Director Susan Belcourt-Rothe says they never had any issues at their previous location in Co-operators Square.

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“We’re an office building; we have offices and being labelled as a community outreach centre it’s unfortunate because the city only has certain criteria they can pick from and that is not really what we’re running out of that building. All of our outreach happens out in the community.”

The office is used for people to find supports and get connected with services in Grande Prairie. The only service provided on site is a street outreach nurse who is there four times a week. Belcourt-Rothe hopes that those opposed will take the time to learn more about their programs and clients, adding she was upset by what she heard at the meeting.

“Marginalized people are members of our community just like everybody else. They’re not necessarily clients of HIV North. Many might be; many might not be. I thought our community had moved further than this. How do we make positive change for people who are at risk?”

If unsuccessful, the organization may have to look at moving again.

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