For 34 years, Edmonton Emergency Relief Services Society (EERSS) has helped victims of natural disasters, like the Fort McMurray and Slave Lake fires, and people fleeing from floods in southern Alberta.
Day to day, the non-profit group helps people affected by poverty, newcomers and refugees. But the organization’s future is up in the air.
EERSS depends on a no-cost lease provided by the government of Alberta for Warehouse #3 located at 10255, 104 St. in downtown Edmonton. Earlier this month, it received a letter from the province that Alberta Infrastructure has decided to terminate the lease.
“The boiler in the building has failed,” EERSS treasurer Shane Harnish said. “Part of the lease agreement is if there is any major system failure to the building, they have the right to terminate the lease if they aren’t willing to fix the problem.”
“We will be closing our doors (Tuesday), for the Peacock Boutique, but we will still be able to be here to help some families if something happens between now and the end of the September.”
Harnish said in the past there was work being down to negotiate a deal and a purchase.
“We have gone through two election cycles and this happened on the last election cycle, where we had everything ready to go, just waiting for signatures, the election was called, nothing got signed and the deal fell through.”
The minister of infrastructure press secretary, Hadyn Place said in a statement keeping Warehouse #3 costs Albertans $90,000 annually, and the repairs cost another $2 million in maintenance.
Six-years ago, the society’s rental agreement was moved to a month to month arrangement, with the understanding that if there were any major issues with building it may result in the society needing to find new accommodations.
“In recent years it became clear that this building was no longer feasible to maintain,” Place said.
“Infrastructure staff began discussions with the organization in 2019 regarding the purchase of Warehouse #3, however these discussions had not progressed past the negotiation stage and no sale agreement between the Government of Alberta and the society was ever completed. Government is managing the province’s buildings and facilities in a cost-effective way to ensure the best use of taxpayer dollars.”
Now the society is looking for other ways to keep its operations running. Harnish said they are making a plea to the community for help.
“We (have) a gofundme campaign which is now out. We are appealing to the public for helping us with some funding so we can get a new home to move to,” Harnish said.
“We don’t need such a large space in Edmonton.”
“We can hopefully get funding to lease a space soon, if it goes really well we can purchase a building even better if someone in the community has space and want to help us out that would be really wonderful too.”