After years of safety concerns surrounding the Parkside Inn in Grande Prairie, things seem to be turning around. After a spike in crime in 2017 related to the motel and its residents, a number of safety features were recommended.
Mayor Bill Given says that since things like extra lighting and cameras have been added, the number of calls the RCMP has received about Parkside has gone down.
“We are seeing it greatly reduced to the point where there are other business properties in the community that actually generate more calls or demand for a response than Parkside does; there are also private homes in the community that are generating more calls for service than the Parkside Motor Inn is.”
In 2017, several rooms were booked by local agencies for homeless people with mental health issues to live in during the winter months. The RCMP has explained that some of those vulnerable people were then taken advantage of by criminals, leading to an increase in crime.
The Canadian Mental Health Association took over the motel in the summer of 2018 and turned it into 24-hour supportive housing. CMHA faced some push back from people living in the area who were worried about their safety and property. Given says that’s why these improvements were made.
“There were concerns from adjacent neighbours about safety and security. At the time council asked administration and Canadian Mental Health to identify safety improvements that would be needed at the site.”
Given says since work started in the area, the situation at Parkside has improved.
“The people there are no longer homeless. They are receiving the support they need on an ongoing basis. There’s onsite supervision all the time and we’re seeing a very low volume of calls.”
Some of the other safety features, which are set to be installed this spring and summer, include improving lighting on site, increasing the height of the existing fence and adding elements like plants and artwork. Forty people are currently living in the motel full time.