Community to discuss homeless in Hythe, possible solutions

·3 min read

Homelessness in Hythe and the possibility of establishing a shelter in the village have become hot topics in the wake of this year’s economic downturn.

The Village of Hythe is requesting feedback ahead of proposed virtual town hall to discuss the issue.

“This is the first time to my knowledge that we’ve really experienced the issue, so we’re looking at options for how to deal with it,” said mayor Brian Peterson.

No date has yet been set for a virtual meeting, said Leona Hanson, village chief administrative officer.

Peterson said he doesn’t believe homelessness is widespread in Hythe, but it poses a great problem to those directly affected.

“It’s a small-scale problem, but with large impacts to individuals,” he said.

Peterson said he doesn’t believe the number of homeless residents exceeds a half dozen.

There is a combination of causes of local housing instability; COVID, falling oil prices and their impact on the economy, he said.

The former 7 Lakes Motel near Tags had provided long-term housing for many people and its closure earlier this year has contributed to the issue.

Some of the former residents have found other accommodations, but others haven’t, Peterson said.

Though rumours have been circulating on social media that the former motel will be re-purposed as a homeless shelter, nothing concrete has been received by the village, said Peterson.

A number of concerned citizens have begun discussing how to address homelessness in Hythe, and the idea of re-purposing the motel has been suggested, he said.

The group isn’t yet well-established and it hasn’t yet proposed a plan, Peterson said.

If the former motel were to be converted into a shelter the village would need to approve that re-purposing through a development permit process, he said.

Village CAO Hanson is working on a potential virtual town hall before a plan is advanced, Peterson said, adding the village isn’t considering funding a facility because it lacks the resources.

Peterson said there’ve been no applications for a development permit yet, but the process has typically taken months.

Homelessness is an urgent issue, but he said the process needs to ensure a good plan for a shelter is in place.

“You need to do it right, and ask, ‘Is it the right place?’” Peterson said.

“The shelter is a basic concept, but I need a lot more information than that.”

He said he’s heard concerns from residents about having a shelter in the community, including whether the village can handle issues often associated with homelessness, mental health and addictions.

“Those are valid concerns, and how do you deal with that and what resources are available?” Peterson said.

“We certainly don’t have those resources available here today.”

That said, some Hythe residents are already struggling with housing instability and mental health or addictions and Peterson said he’s not aware of anyone moving to Hythe to use the shelter.

Other residents have expressed concerns about the rising crime they perceive would come with a shelter.

Peterson said RCMP response times in Hythe are already an issue.

“Adding extra stress to the system is not a good thing,” he said.

Before the town hall, feedback is being accepted at 780-356-3888 or info@hythe.ca and residents can also express interest in attending the meeting by using that email address.

Brad Quarin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Town & Country News