January 17th, 2021

Mustard Seed focus of town hall


By Lethbridge Herald on January 13, 2021.

Herald photo by Ian Martens The Ramada hotel building along Mayor Magrath Drive South is the proposed site for The Mustard Seed's supportive housing facility in Lethbridge. @IMartensHerald

Tim Kalinowski
Lethbridge Herald
tkalinowski@lethbridgeherald.com
The Lethbridge Chamber of Commerce held a virtual town hall on Tuesday night with representatives of the Mustard Seed over the organization’s plan to rezone the Ramada Inn on 1303 Mayor Magrath Drive from a commercial property into a long-term supportive housing facility in the community.
The town hall allowed Mustard Seed CEO Stephen Wile, managing director Byron Bradley and Lethbridge project manager Taylor Kawaguchi to answer questions on the areas of location, operations and community safety.
Stephen Mogdan moderated on behalf of the Chamber of Commerce.
Wile said the Mustard Seed has searched out several different potential sites and, after evaluation, determined the Ramada Inn and nearby Chinook Motel were the best fits for a supportive housing site in Lethbridge.
“It is important to understand the funding for these apartments is coming from the federal government,” he explained. “It’s a rapid housing initiative. Therefore, it narrows down the properties that might be available for us to purchase.
The only projects they would be willing to fund are either in the ground ready to start building, and of course we don’t have any of those projects in Lethbridge, but the other would be hotel conversion. That’s why we have focused on hotels these last number of months.

“In fact, we looked at over a half a dozen locations, and we took into account things like transit, grocery stores, the shapes the buildings are in. A couple of the ones defined as hotels, it would likely cost less to rebuild the entire hotel. So we had to make some decisions, and the Ramada Inn was in great shape, and it had access to all of these other amenities; so that’s the reason why we chose the Ramada,” he said.
The Mustard Seed representatives were asked by several questioners at the town hall about accountability if residents were causing disturbances or committing crimes outside of the building.
Managing director Bradley reiterated past assertions that the Mustard Seed was known to help reduce crime in the areas where it operates by expecting strict accountability from its residents, its no loitering policy, an open door policy with police, and an ongoing community engagement initiatives.
And while he admitted these facilities were emergency shelters and not supportive housing like would be located at the Ramada in Lethbridge, Bradley provided statement and testimonials from the Red Deer RCMP and Edmonton Police Service who noticed a statistical drop in crime once the Mustard Seed took over operations of these facilities.
Bradley also stated they have a robust and ongoing community engagement strategy at their other facilities even after they open guided by a strong sense of community accountability.
While not explicitly referring to ARCHES by name, moderator Stephen Mogdan noted, in response to Bradley, that there had been another community organization, admittedly not the Mustard Seed, that had established itself in the city once upon a time, and also said it would be accountable to nearby business owners and residents with a robust community engagement strategy which turned out to be mostly “lip-service.” He asked what assurances could the Mustard Seed give residents that their commitment to ongoing community accountability would be more than that?
Wile responded.
“We truly trust what reality will look like what we have been describing the last hour and a half,” he said. “We have one purpose with two tenets. Our purpose at the Mustard Seed is to eliminate homelessness, and reduce poverty, in the cities we serve. At the crossroads of both of those is housing, because if we can get people into housing we can move them from the shifting sand of homeless or inadequate housing to that foundational place where they can start building a life. That is the reason why we are here.”
Other new details emerged about the proposed development under questioning from the audience Tuesday night. The new facility would not just be for homeless people, it would also be a potential place to stay for low income people making under $30,000 per year and who may spend more than half of their income on rent. The facility will be “sober” not “dry,” meaning that like in any personal apartment those who wish to have a beer, for example, can do so in the privacy of their own apartment, if they are not recovering from alcohol addiction, but they must retain a dry character in all public areas of the facility. Smoking will not be allowed in personal apartments, but to try and avoid loitering on cigarette breaks outside the building there will be a designated smoking room constructed in the building. The Mustard Seed, like other charities which run facilities in the community, will be seeking municipal property tax exemptions if the Ramada rezoning is approved.
The Town Hall was full Tuesday night, limiting the amount of participants, but the Chamber of Commerce will be providing another virtual town hall opportunity on Jan. 19. Preregistration available on the Chamber’s website.
In a signal for how complex the debate surrounding the proposed rezoning leading up to the public hearing in early February will be, city council actually debated whether or not to pass First Reading of the bylaw change to rezone during Tuesday’s council meeting instead of passing it pro forma as per usual to set up a public hearing date. It passed by a vote of 7-2 with Councillors Mauro and Hyggen opposed.
Follow @TimKalHerald on Twitter

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Dennis Bremner

Of course if this venture does not turn out as the Mustard Seed insists they will no doubt suggest that crime dropped in the downtown area, neglecting to mention that all they did was move the crime from downtown to South Side Ramada?
Mustard Seed is not as “Friendly as they insist” in fact Victoria is having a major issue with them. So once they are “IN” with no skin in the game because the building was purchased for them, and, they pay no taxes, the proverbial oops can be played et nausieum.
Mustard Seed is known for suggesting they address situations immediately and then fail to deliver, so as long as people remember that their intent is to promise the world to get a free multi million dollar building (Trudeau/Your taxes are paying for it) , pay their executives very very well, and pay no taxes to the city, (sounds like another organization now I think about it?) then the con will continue.
Accountability to anyone, once they are IN? No One, not even the Council that is believing this pile of promises.

I have a question for Council who honestly believes this is a “Saviour from God” when it comes to housing. What I would like Council to answer is this:
Name one Religious organization on the planet that would not take a Free Building, operate as a Church, pay no taxes and pay themselves well for doing a wonderful job?
So if you answered the skill testing question correctly, the answer is ALL Religious Organizations would jump at the chance. So, if all organizations would jump at a free hotel, why are you allowing Mustard Seed to Pick the Hotel they want, rather than the Hotel the City Council wants? Or, do taxpayers no longer matter in the LakeView Area?
Toughie to answer isn’t it? You have someone knocking on the door, you think you have to jump because they are the only ones at the door. Have you asked others to compete? I would doubt it! Have you decided YOU will determine where this homeless shelter should be….I doubt that too. The easy way is not necessarily the right way!

Last edited 3 days ago by Dennis Bremner
chinook

Galt Gardens is trashed. Next it will be Henderson Lake (our 2 most beautiful parks). This disease is spreading all because naïve do-gooders are scrambling for Federal dollars with no consideration for long term consequences and impacts to tax paying public.

chinook

Druggies, homeless and natives have overwhelmed our city and Mayor Spearman has turned a blind eye putting us on the map as the crime capital / druggie centre of Canada. Downtown with losers aimlessly wandering the streets too many of them from the Blood reserve. This is not racist; its a fact. Galt Gardens is no longer the beautiful Galt Gardens we once knew. The library is another area they’ve taken over that has the police and ambulance there too often to stomach as drugs are taken in the bathrooms and any other cubby hole they can find. As if ARCHES wasn’t bad enough we now have MUSTARD SEED do-gooders scrambling for Federal $$ to set up shop in Lakeview area right next door to Henderson Lake. Within no time flat Henderson Lake will be trashed just like Galt Gardens. All our hard working tax dollars that paid for these beautiful parks taken over and trashed by the unfortunate dregs of society. Mustard Seed should have looked for a place close to soup kitchen or on the outskirts of town NOT in the best places in Lethbridge. Horrible decision made by naïve people that have no clue.

UncleBuck

In all honesty, this is Native people’s home.

Europeans have kind of, you know, invaded it and caused a bunch of problems and wrecked the place.

Would you rather the Natives be kept on the reserves? Like, in a sort of camp, where they are concentrated?

I have a feeling you would.



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