Despite some pushback from residents, the Parkside Inn will likely be turned into 24-hour supportive housing. The city’s Infrastructure and Protective Services committee has approved a two-year development permit for the Canadian Mental Health Association to run the motel as a community outreach facility.
The move was proposed last fall after the city housed people in the motel over the winter months. CMHA Executive Director Randy Arsenault says he’s happy that the application was approved.
“I know there’s a lot of work to do and I’m looking forward to working with the community and the city to move this project forward.”
Ahead of the meeting, more 100 letters were sent to property owners in the area letting them know of the possible change. The city received 25 objection letters back with concerns ranging from safety to a decrease in property value.
Nearly 40 people attended the committee meeting on Tuesday morning. One of those people was Karen Lutton, who acknowledges that the city is in need of permanent supportive housing. However, she says it shouldn’t be the Parkside location as it’s on the same property as a liquor store.
“We’re not opposed to permanent supportive housing; it’s very important and it’s very needed. What we’re opposed to is the location… when you’re housing people with homelessness and addiction issues you’re setting them up for failure to have a liquor store right there.”
Arseneault says that while he would rather not have a liquor store close to the facility, that’s not his biggest concern.
“If you go to the west about a block and a half there’s another liquor store so having one right in the front yard is not ideal but I don’t think it’s going to be the concern. They also mentioned the marijuana store and I basically said marijuana really isn’t the concern here, it’s opioids and the heroine; that’s where the concern should be.”
Most of the other people who spoke at the meeting were concerned that crime would increase with the change. In January, officers were called to the motel 32 times. Since the beginning of October, police have been called five times. Grande Prairie RCMP Operations Officer Inspector John Respet says the motel is not the biggest source of crime in the city anymore.
“That’s not to say that what I’ve heard here today is not occurring… but I believe we have mitigated it to the point that now what we’re dealing with – the actual physical location of the Parkside Inn – is not anywhere near a concern as it was potentially eight or six months ago.”
The CMHA still needs to wait for final approval from council before it can continue to move forward. The Inn will be able to house 35 people when it officially opens. All but 10 units are currently filled.