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City of Leduc passes motion to save ‘the Hub’ homeless shelter, but new home still needed

After a lengthy meeting,  Leduc City Council approved a motion Monday night aiming to keep a facility that supports the homeless running in the community south of Edmonton.

The Leduc Hub homeless and support centre, which locals refer to as “the Hub,” is facing closure. It started 15 years ago as an emergency shelter in the winter but has grown and evolved into a community centre.

Now, the space on 47th Street that has 10 emergency shelter beds and provides social services like meals and laundry is facing an uncertain future.

Its property lease is up later this year, and at the end of April so too is its provincial funding, which the Hub needs renewed in order to secure a new home.

“The triple threat we are under is that our permit is expiring, our lease is expiring and we haven’t found a place to move to yet,” said Brenda Reimer, board chair of the Leduc Hub Association.

Reimer said the current space doesn’t meet the organization’s needs so they’ve been looking for some time now to move.

She was one of the many people who attended a packed public hearing discussing the Hub on Monday night.

Leduc Mayor Bob Young said they heard from dozens of passionate speakers who were both for and against the shelter.

The city said Leduc has seen its population grow by nearly a thousand people a year since 2008, and since the COVID-19 pandemic its homeless population has also increased.

“I don’t believe that the homeless shelter is the answer. I think that it’s just part of the solution,” Young said, adding there are other services needed to address the city’s vulnerable population.

The Leduc Hub Association said over the last year, growing misconceptions about its impact on the community and downtown safety have eroded support for the shelter.

King Business Solutions has been neighbours with the Hub for five years. Owner Melissa Lenos said she was on the original task force when the Hub emergency shelter was created and said it’s evolution over the years to a community space has come at the detriment of those around it.

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“I have no problem with the shelter,” she said, explaining an overnight shelter doesn’t come with the social disorder she’s seeing with the day use space.

“We’ve created this community centre for everyone to hang out, for everyone to loiter, to just be around. And that has created my problems.”

Lenos said there have been issues and the current setup isn’t working for the community.

“We’ve had a lack of respect for our businesses, our space, our green space and the building,” Lenos said.

“It’s led to garbage, we’ve had drug paraphernalia left on premise. We’ve had Narcan hidden on our premise,” she said, adding her building’s exterior has also been damaged.

Lenos just wants her staff and clients to feel comfortable and respected as they come and go.

“I am in the city of Leduc — I didn’t think I was in downtown Edmonton, and I feel that some of my clients feel that they’re in a downtown.

“I didn’t ever want that feeling.”

Phil Hulmes owns Mobility Equipment Services, located down the street from the Hub. He came to the council meeting with a bucket of wire stripped from a vertical lift intended to help a wheelchair-bound client who can’t use stairs.

The wire was stolen last May, Hulmes said, and returned only after he forced staff at the Hub to review security video that showed the person who took it was at their facility.

“The manager of the Hub drove the gentleman who stole the wire from the lift back to my store and dropped it off at my back door.”

Hulmes said RCMP did initially lay charges, but he was later told by the Crown they were being dropped because the wire was returned. Hulmes said as frustrating as it is to be affected as a business, it’s the impact on the community that really bothers him.

“The individual that was waiting for this piece of equipment to be delivered to his home was 90 years old. He’s a pioneer of this community. He’s has four generations of family underneath him, living in this community, supporting this community, trying to be prosperous.

“All the while, their family member is taking losses where it’s impacting them medically, emotionally and financially.”

Both Hulmes and Lenos agree supports for the homeless are needed, but feel the Hub finds a new space that better serves the needs of the vulnerable population.

Hulmes said he knows it’s extremely necessary — explaining he too was once homeless.

“I know personally that everybody has the opportunity to make a choice as to how they want to impact those around them and how they want to lead their lives, right?”

Reimer said she wants to work with the community to make the space works for everyone and be a good neighbour.

“Our doors are open. We want to find collaborative solutions. If you have an idea we’d love to hear it,” she said.

After hearing from dozens of speakers on Monday, Leduc council passed a motion of support.

It doesn’t have any legal standing but indicates the municipalities’ willingness in principle to back the continued existence of the facility — something Reimer and Young said the province requires in writing in order to consider renewing its funding.

“I am deeply hopeful that this show of support from city council will help us in the search for funding and for our location. So we’re just thankful that council made this bold, courageous move to help the Hub — to save the Hub,” Reimer said.

“This motion was a great first step.”

The shelter will continue to operate for the remainder of the winter in its current home but the next step is securing a new location.

Reimer and Young both said due to the time it takes for the permitting process to play out, a new location needs to be secured by Friday, Feb. 16 or the Hub will have to close.

“We have been actively looking for many months,” Reimer said. “Had several options that we looked into, but they haven’t worked out so far. We’re hoping that with leadership from the city, we’ll be able to find a location and continue to provide services.”

Back in the fall, the City of Leduc sent a letter of support for the homeless shelter to Minister of Seniors, Community and Social Services Jason Nixon, which the mayor said resulted in funding for the Hub from November 2023 to this upcoming April.

“Everyone deserves to be treated with dignity and respect,” Young said on Tuesday, adding the city is holding a strategic planning session next month and will have a better idea of the community’s needs after that.

“We know that normally a homeless shelter isn’t something that a municipality is responsible for. We’re going to work with Minister Nixon’s office and hopefully we’re going to come up with a strategy that is going to help us start to deal with the homeless issue in Leduc.”

As of Tuesday, a Change.org petition launched in January by the  Leduc Hub Association to save the facility had garnered over 1,200 signatures.


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