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Community rallies to save Leduc homeless support centre, ‘the hub’

More than 500 people have signed a petition asking Leduc City Council to save a local homeless and support centre, which locals refer to as “the hub.”

The petition on Change.org was organized Friday after the Leduc Hub Association learned Leduc City Council was considering a bylaw and permit changes that would force them to close their current location on 47 Street in Leduc.

“The triple threat of an expiring operating permit, lease ending, and lack of a new location — risks leaving Leduc without a shelter,” said Susan Johnson, the hub’s executive director in a statement to Global News on Sunday. “For nearly 15 years, the hub has provided essential social and emergency shelter services in Leduc. Over the last year, growing misconceptions about our impact on the community and downtown safety are eroding support for our shelter from the business community and some members of city council.”

“We are calling on our city council to come together to protect our most vulnerable and to prevent encampments in our city, by sending a strong, unified public message that homeless shelter services in Leduc are essential, and that the HUB must survive,” Johnson continued.

The hub provides social supports, food and a shelter space for up to 10 beds.

Holley Kroonen, a community support worker at the hub worries about the futures of the 100 or so homeless people in Leduc, many of which are supported through the hub.

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“A lot of people are scared because they’re worried about how they’re going to eat, where are they going to access resources,” Kroonen said. “When you take away food and shelter from people who are in active addiction, they tend to commit more crime, they have to provide a roof over their head, they have to feed themselves, as well as buy their drug of choice, so that creates more an of strain on the community.”

Kroonen said the homelessness situation has gotten worse in Leduc since the pandemic with more people calling on the hub for help and worries what will happen if the centre closes.

“There’s currently no other service that does what the Hub does, so unless they have something in place before the doors close or unless they allow the Hub to remain open and find a suitable spot to reopen- it’s going to be bad for everyone,” Kroonen said.

In a statement to Global News on Saturday, Leduc’s deputy mayor, Laura Tillack said she became aware of the petition late Friday.

“It comes as somewhat of a surprise, since the City has been working collaboratively with the Leduc Hub Association to support them and the vulnerable individuals we both serve,” Tillack said.

The statement went on to say the City of Leduc has been working with the Leduc Hub Association on the Leduc Homelessness Task Force, which is expected to present a final report to council in late February.

“Since June of last year, the city has been encouraging the Hub to apply to extend their development permit, if they were considering staying in the current location. Although there has been some inaccurate information indicating City Council has changed or is considering changes to its Land Use Bylaw to restrict where the Hub may operate, that is simply not the case,” Tillack continued.

Tillack added the hub is free to apply to extend its permit, subject to the same terms and conditions that any other discretionary use applicant must follow. The City’s development officers continue to work with representatives of the Hub to help them understand and comply with this legislated process.

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