November 5, 2013 11:27 am
Updated: November 6, 2013 1:19 am

Anglican Diocese scraps current housing project in Terwillegar

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EDMONTON – The Anglican Diocese won’t move forward with the current plan for a controversial residence for the homeless in south Edmonton.

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“First of all, I’d like to clarify it’s this plan, this project,” explained Bishop Jane Alexander, with the Anglican Diocese of Edmonton. “We’re committed to going ahead and putting a project on that land that will actually move towards contributing to the eradication of homelessness and addressing needs of poverty. But, we’ve just completed our due diligence on the project , and we don’t think this project can be successful in this particular place.”

The 60 unit supportive housing development for the recently homeless was proposed on land owned by the Diocese in Terwillegar Towne.

The proposed residence is a concept created by Jasper Place Health and Wellness, led by businessman Murray Soroka. Calls to the developer on Tuesday from Global News were not returned.

The project received backlash from some residents in Terwillegar and has led to city-wide debate over how supportive housing should be built in the suburbs.

Alexander said the communication process and community engagement process was flawed from the start, and would like to see a more proactive approach in the future.

“I think because of that – whatever the merits of the project – it can’t go ahead in that neighbourhood. We don’t think it would be successful for the people who would move in or for the neighbourhood.”

“We want to start fresh, and find a project that will work in that neighbourhood.”

Alexander stresses that while the Diocese has decided against this particular project, it is committed to finding a similar project for the land.

“We’re absolutely committed to do it. We own the land, we are fortunate, blessed that it’s zoned for multi-family use, so there will be something going on that land that goes with the 10 year plan.”

“It could be interpreted as that we’re backing down, and so I want to say again: we’re not backing down from doing a project. We want to do the right project. And so I hope that there is no sense of triumphalism out there, about ‘oh yes, if you shout loudly enough, you can make these kinds of projects go away,’ because we are committed, and our faith compels us to say that the most vulnerable members of society deserve a home and we deserve to do what we can do to work for a more just society.”

Ward 9 City Councillor Bryan Anderson believes another project will be developed in the area.

“I think that there will be a project there. I’m assuming that it will be a different applicant.”

“I certainly do hope that, once a decision is made, that the descriptors and the size and all the information provided are factual as opposed to changing on a week to week basis.”

Some Terwillegar residents expressed relief after hearing this project wouldn’t move forward.

“It really is good news that’s not coming into the area. I suppose it’s a lot of weight off a lot of people’s shoulders that were worrying about it,” said Daniel Woodall.

“There are so many young families in the area, we wouldn’t want something like that in here. But there’s gotta be help for the homeless people,” he added.

Following the news on Tuesday, the Terwillegar Towne Homeowners Association released a statement:

“The Terwillegar Towne Homeowners Association (TTHOA) has received the media release issued by Bishop Jane Alexander, and is encouraged to read of her commitment to use the church’s land for a project that can positively contribute to the City’s 10-year plan to end homelessness.

“The TTHOA, and its members, care about the issues of poverty and homelessness in Edmonton. And we are willing to work together to make a valuable contribution to potential alternative projects in the near or distant future.

“We look forward to doing our part to continue engaging our members and community in a way that supports the Anglican Church’s aim to identify and implement a project that will be successful for all involved–most importantly, those directly affected by homelessness and poverty in our city.”

Prior to making the news public, the Diocese of Edmonton sent a letter to its members, notifying them of the decision and its continued commitment to use the land to help with the city of Edmonton’s ten year plan to end homelessness.

The Diocese of Edmonton letter to members

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