The George Spady Society is working to relocate its medically-supported detox program from its current downtown location to a building beside the Jasper Place Transit Centre.
Ward Nakota Isga Coun. Andrew Knack said the potential move could help the city better achieve its goal of decentralizing social services, while also filling service gaps in the west end.
"Many of us have heard the same stories — those individuals experiencing homelessness aren't necessarily feeling comfortable going into the downtown core, and that their network, their community is in the west end," Knack told Taproot. "Even though the services they might need to access aren't available in the west end, they've been more likely to stay in the west end."
Several support services for vulnerable people have disappeared in the west end in recent times. Jasper Place Wellness Centre's community resource centre, health centre, transitional housing, and emergency shelter all closed within the last few years. Knack said the centre has chosen to step back from emerging problems to focus on permanent solutions, like affordable housing. Meanwhile, Fusion Fellowship Church's outreach program has ended, and the Mustard Seed runs a "very limited site" in the area, he said.
A service like that offered by the George Spady Society is "something that's been needed in the west end," Knack said.
The organization's website describes its current medical detox facility, located at 10015 105A Avenue NW, as "a safe, fully medically-supported space (for clients to) withdraw from substances, stabilize their health, and receive referrals to treatment facilities, mental health supports, and housing."
The organization performs intake each weekday morning, with admissions based on need and bed availability. Once the client's health is stable, they work with the staff to come up with a plan to improve their life, the website reads.
The George Spady Society has applied to rezone a property at 15625 Stony Plain Road NW, beside the Jasper Place Transit Centre. The building's existing zoning already allows it to be used as a detox centre. But, according to the application, the George Spady Society wants to double the floor area that can be used for detox to 2,000 square metres.
The application details that the building could host "in-patient medical treatment and out-patient services associated with addiction and detoxification." The George Spady Society is also proposing to build an addition to the existing building as part of the rezoning.
The proposed rezoning is scheduled for a public hearing on Jan. 29.
City administration supports the application, citing the need to decentralize social services. The city said the location beside a transit centre, and a short walk from a future Valley Line West LRT stop, makes sense as it expects the majority of users to walk, bike, or take transit to the centre.
The city's planning report notes public engagement on the application received no formal responses aside from conversations with the Stony Plain Road Business Association. The report indicates these conversations led to a meeting that included nearby business owners, the CEO of the George Spady Society, and a community safety liaison.
The planning report notes stakeholders talked about the proposed use of the site, parking, safety, and the future relationship between the social service and residents and businesses in the area.
Knack said he wasn't surprised that there was no opposition to the project. "While there haven't been a lot of (social) services offered in the west end, those that are in the west end are seen as really strong contributors to the community, and they help make a stronger community," he said.
Note: The George Spady Society reached out to Taproot after publication. The society provides detox services to all who need them, not only those who are homeless.