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Officials with Mustard Seed consider homeless shelter for Edmonton’s south side

WATCH ABOVE: Officials with the Mustard Seed say a homeless shelter is needed on Edmonton's south side to meet the needs of a growing homeless population. Julia Wong reports.

The Mustard Seed is exploring the idea of setting up a shelter in South Edmonton.

Managing director Dean Kurpjuweit said the organization is trying to figure out how to meet the need on the city’s south side and said a shelter may be the solution. No location has been decided yet.

Kurpjuweit said there was previously between 20 and 30 people a day using the drop-in at the Neighbour Centre, which is already on the south side. He said that has since grown to more than 100 people every day and said that 60 to 70 per cent of that group does not have stable housing.

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“Most of the people we serve, that we’re thinking about this for, tent in the Mill Creek area. You’d want to have proximity to that and you’d want to have proximity to our current Neighbour Centre,” he said.

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Kurpjuweit said there is a growing need for a shelter south of the North Saskatchewan River, though he said the facility would be a short-term, not long-term, shelter. He said drop-in services would continue to be overseen by the Neighbour Centre.

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“There was a new population that was started. The second thing is, there was definitely some migration [from downtown],” he said.

“It’s very different from the crowd downtown. It’s just a different group of people with a different group of needs. Some of them a little bit more transient, some of them younger because of the university crowd that’s down there.”

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Kurpjuweit said the organization is being mindful of different attitudes towards a shelter outside of the downtown core, such as NIMBY, which stands for “not in my back yard.”

“We want to be really sensitive to the communities that are there. Certainly, we want to make sure wherever this goes, it would be in a place that would accommodate and fit nicely within a nice pocket,” he said.

“We’re in the conversation stage. What we don’t want to do is come in with a wrecking ball, but we do want people to understand we are talking about this, we are thinking about it.”

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Councillor Ben Henderson, whose ward includes part of the Mill Creek ravine, said an open dialogue with the community is important.

“People are always concerned when things that are different move into a community like this,” he said.

“There’s no question it always works best if you can have a conversation with the community and really help people understand what kind of thing is going to happen and what kind of facility.”

Henderson said he has been hearing concerns about homelessness from residents for some time.

READ MORE: Edmonton Mustard Seed seeing big increase in those needing help

“Hopefully this will be a healthy and positive solution to making sure everybody is safe and housed,” he said.

“It’s not that there’s likely to be anyone new in the neighbourhood that isn’t there right now. Getting them into good housing where they can get proper support will be a benefit, I think, to everybody.”

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Henderson said whatever location is decided upon must be accessible by transit.

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“I think putting it in a place which is really out of the way means that people can’t use it or won’t use it. [It] isn’t going to get you any further forward,” he said.

There is no set timeline on the project, though Kurpjuweit, from the Mustard Seed, said he wants to make a decision on whether to move forward by the end of the year.

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