By Lethbridge Herald on December 7, 2020.
The Community Issues Committee of city council heard a presentation from community group The Mustard Seed during Monday’s meeting about the organization’s plans to open a 24-hour sober shelter and a separate permanent supportive housing facility in Lethbridge.
While neither the City nor the organization publicly confirmed the proposed location of the proposed supportive housing facility during the CIC meeting, a copy of a rezoning proposal letter obtained by The Herald from The Mustard Seed and architect Alvin Reinhard Fritz to nearby residents confirms the location the group is looking at is 1303 Mayor Magrath Drive South: the current location of the Ramada by Wyndham.
A petition opposed to the rezoning has already been launched at Change.org and has thus far garnered about 1,900 signatures. The information presented on the petition seems to have some inaccuracies.
According to information provided by The Mustard Seed spokesperson Byron Bradley on Monday, the proposed sober shelter would be a 24/7 facility located downtown at a separate location to the Ramada. It would be a 45-bed facility, and that would be a drop-in centre.
The Ramada location would house 86 residents on a permanent basis with wrap-around onsite, support services, such as advocacy services, employment coaching and counselling, and would not be a 24-hour drop-in centre as the petition states.
Bradley said The Mustard Seed is still awaiting funding from the federal government’s Rapid Re-Housing Fund.
“It is still in process,” he confirmed. “We have applied for funding through the federal government’s Rapid Re-Housing initiative. We are in that process right now. It could be many different locations, but we are waiting to hear back about that application and that funding, and then we will be able to get more details to the community.”
Bradley said whenever his organization has set up at a new location it takes a while for the community to warm up to the idea but, he explained, The Mustard Seed has a strong track record of being a good community partner. He told council earlier the organization does not allow loitering, for example, outside its premises, and it does not take in those who are under the influence of drugs or alcohol at its shelters. The permanent housing facility would not be a “transitional,” home, but a permanent home for those The Mustard Seed houses where they can stay the rest of their lives, stressed Bradley.
“We have heard about some backlash and negativity in the community,” he explained. “As we said in council chambers, we have to earn the respect of this community. Respect is not given; respect is earned. We want to be transparent and have a multi-faceted community engagement process, and we have begun that — just the first baby steps. We are ready for that challenge, and are excited to work hand-in-hand with whatever communities we are located in.”
The Mustard Seed has been doing this type of housing for over 36 years, and has good relationships with all the communities it currently works in, Bradley stated. He looked forward to enjoying a similarly strong relationship with its neighbours in Lethbridge.
“One of the important things is to make ourselves accessible,” he said. “Anyone that has concerns, as often as possible, we will make ourselves accessible to those concerned citizens that might have questions. And getting very involved in the community as well.
“During my presentation in council chambers, I talked about getting on the community association in the neighbourhood where we are located in Red Deer. We are also an active member of the Chamber of Commerce in Red Deer. And last year, we were nominated for non-profit business of the year. Those awards and things like that come our way because of hard, collaborative work with the community.”
CIC chair Deputy Mayor Rob Miyashiro said council had a great opportunity to hear from, and ask questions of, The Mustard Seed during Monday’s meeting. Council, he stated, would look forward to hearing more as the organization takes its next steps in the community.
“The Mustard Seed has a plan,” he said; “so you get the vulnerable population, you give them a place to live, and you backfill that with some support services. It’s probably the only way our vulnerable population will actually make it — if they have those support services in place. So hopefully when this gets up and running, The Mustard Seed will be able to fulfil that promise.”
Miyashiro says it does add to council’s confidence that The Mustard Seed has already enjoyed great success in the other communities it has served.
“If you don’t do it properly then it is just another dumping ground for people who don’t have anything else,” he said. “I think that is the really important thing for people in this community to remember: if The Mustard Seed does this program the way they have described, the outcomes will be a lot more positive than we might have seen in other different circumstances in the past. There have been some organizations that provide great supportive housing, and have had great outcomes, and there have been some who haven’t done so well. What I like about The Mustard Seed is they are not a fly-by-night operation. This isn’t their first kick at the can. The Mustard Seed has been around a long time.”
For more information on the Mustard Seed in Lethbridge view The Herald’s story from last week visit https://lethbridgeherald
To hear more details about the Mustard Seed’s Ramada permanent supportive housing proposal visit https://www.alvinfritzarchitect.com/the-mustard-seed.
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