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Mixed reviews come in for Boyle Street's proposed Strathcona health-care hub


Boyle Street Community Services (BSCS) held an open house Tuesday night, to meet residents and business owners in the Strathcona neighbourhood where a new health-care hub is being planned.

It was the first of several planned community consultation sessions being held for the hub, with worries over public safety leading the conversation.

The hub, which will include an overdose prevention site and wrap-around health and housing services, will be the first facility of its kind south of the river.

It's planned to open at 10119 81 Avenue in spring 2023, but BSCS said the lease hasn't been finalized, with multiple community consultations scheduled to collect input from residents and assess needs in the area.

"We're hoping for a robust community conversation. And we know that this health hub is desperately needed in this community, but people have concerns," said Elliott Tanti, BCSC senior manager of community engagement.

"One of the misconceptions that we deal with unfortunately is that the people we serve are engaged continually in crime, but what we've come to find at Boyle Street is that actually, the people that we serve tend to be the victims of crime far more than the perpetrators themselves."


Multiple questions were asked at the meeting about the selection process for the hub's location.

Three sites were scouted in the area, but BCSC would not disclose the other two. What the organization did communicate was that data from multiple organizations shows a need for the health hub as overdoses rise in Strathcona.

Sindi Addorisio, the hub's lead developer, said a recent survey showed that, overall, 76.4 per cent of participants said they wouldn't be willing to travel more than a kilometre to access an overdose prevention site or supervised injection facility.

"As such, it's imperative that we put them in communities in which people are already using and open-air drug use is already occurring," said Tanti.

Boyle Street Community Services is proposing an overdose prevention site at 10119 81 Ave. off Whyte Avenue, pictured here on Dec. 1, 2022, and says it is in the process of gathering community feedback throughout the month.


Public safety was a major concern of the night, and several questions were asked about what BSCS had planned to address any issues that might arise once the hub opened.

One woman, whose daughter attends an elementary school in the area, said she sees the need for the hub but police resources in the neighbourhood are already under strain. She asked what, if any, extra resources or funding would be given to Edmonton Police Service.

Tanti said the hub will have a close relationship with EPS to monitor potential emerging trends, but did not give details on what that would look like or what additional resources were available.

The hub does have funding for on-site security, but Tanti did not have details on what other security or safety resources or funding would be available.


Rob Bligh, a Strathcona business owner, told CTV News Edmonton after the meeting that he didn't think the community's questions were adequately answered.

"I think that the people talking tonight are experts in their field and I don't question that, but what I think they failed to address is the primary concern of the people that live and work and play in Strathcona about crime and the resulting concern for public safety," Bligh said.

He added that the organization also did not answer his questions on the impact the health-care hub would have on investment in the area.

Tanti said he could not speak definitively to any impact on redevelopment in Strathcona, but noted existing problems in the community – like open-air drug use and overdoses – also have the potential to negatively impact area investment.

"You talk about crime going up, and there's open-drug use and there's people overdosing, and concerns about safety now that the Mustard Seed has opened, so our hope is, our plan is to maybe offset that," Addorsio, the hub developer, told residents.

The health hub wouldn't just be an overdose prevention site, she added, and would also be a point of contact for other wrap-around services for housing, mental health and recovery – all of which help clients as a continuum of care.

"The individuals that you are finding that are openly using or are sleeping in the car parks, we hope to be able to assist those individuals to take them off of that street with the services we're offering," she said.


Not everyone at the meeting was opposed to the hub.

"I'm actually excited that something like this is coming to our community. . . I think it will make me feel safer and I think it's actually better for the businesses," said resident Iris Vaisman. "Not only is it that it's needed for our community, but it's something that's been proven to work in the past."

Jessica Day is the director of program innovation at the Youth Empowerment and Support Services, a low-barrier shelter and wrap-around service site for youth on Whyte Avenue. She said the first meeting was a good start.

"There's more conversation to be had but I think, at the end of the day, we have to listen to the folks that are experiencing this," Day said. "It's the people who are experiencing homelessnes, who are deep in addiction who are asking for this.

"That's a pretty profound thought so let's go back to that, because they're the ones that are the most important in this scenario."

Another community consultation is planned for January. 

With files from CTV News Edmonton's Galen McDougall Top Stories

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