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After initial concern, Ritchie Community League puts support behind area homeless shelter

The Mustard Seed is set to open a 24/7 homeless shelter in Edmonton's Ritchie neighbourhood on Nov. 2, 2020. Vinesh Pratap, Global News

After hearing from members of the community and meeting with stakeholders, the Ritchie Community League says it now supports a temporary homeless shelter in its community.

On Nov. 2, The Mustard Seed opened the temporary, 24/7 shelter in a warehouse owned by Cessco Fabrication and Engineering Ltd., located on 75 Avenue near 99 Street. The space can accommodate about 120 people and provides them with food, showers, washrooms and day programming, as well as services such as housing supports and employment coaches.

Initially, members of the Ritchie Community League and area residents voiced concerns with the shelter, saying they were not consulted about it before it was approved. Some were also worried about the potential for increased in crime in the area.

The shelter’s remote location was also raised as a concern, given a lack of immediate access to services such as a grocery store.

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Read more: ‘Mixed feelings’ about temporary homeless shelter in Edmonton’s Ritchie neighbourhood

However, the president of the community league said over the past few weeks, members have had time to hear from residents and those in charge of the shelter and they are now putting their support behind the shelter.

“There seems to be common ground that you can’t have vulnerable Edmontonians, members of our community here in Ritchie, being on the streets, living in the Mill Creek Ravine or just not having access to safe, secure housing,” community league president Avnish Nanda said Monday night.

“We just needed time to hear from our community members, speak with the stakeholders, get the full information in order to make an informed and fair decision in the circumstances.”

Nanda said part of the community league’s support includes continuing to work with The Mustard Seed to ensure there’s open communication to resolve any issues that may arise.

“There are, I think, legitimate concerns; concerns regarding the potential impact on the community, negative impacts. But there are also concerns with respect to whether this facility is sufficient for the people using it. Because it’s remote,” Nanda said.

Click to play video: 'Temporary homeless shelter opening in Edmonton’s Ritchie neighbourhood' Temporary homeless shelter opening in Edmonton’s Ritchie neighbourhood
Temporary homeless shelter opening in Edmonton’s Ritchie neighbourhood – Oct 30, 2020

The Mustard Seed has recognized the shelter is not a permanent solution. It is set to remain open through the winter and close at the end of March 2021.

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The city estimates about 2,000 people are experiencing homelessness in Edmonton, with 600 sleeping outside or unsheltered on any given night.

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