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'Our people are in need': Camp trailers serve as temporary shelters at former Sands Hotel housing project


A housing and support centre at the former Sands Hotel on Fort Road is about to get a lot bigger, but some neighbours are upset about it, claiming they haven't been properly consulted.

There are a few dozen people living at the site, next to Yellowhead Trail, now but at least 100 more will soon move in.

Nearby resident Rob Enger is organizing opposition to the project.

He says he's collected more than 150 signatures from his neighbours who also don’t like the shelter they see taking shape near their homes.

Recently, several camp trailers appeared in the parking lot, adding to Enger's concern.

"If I wanted to sell my house, you think I could sell it with these trailers?," he said Friday afternoon.

"There’s been no consultation with anyone in the neighbourhood here."

NiGiNan Housing Ventures has spent the last few years transforming the Sands into "Pimatisiwin," a permanent housing centre with specific support for Indigenous people.

"Our people are not dangerous. Our people are in need. They have complex needs. They were on the street for a reason," CEO Keri Cardinal Schulte told CTV News Edmonton.

One hundred and ten rooms in the hotel will soon be ready for people to move into permanently.

Residents will receive addictions treatment, mental health support, medical care and access to Indigenous cultural practices like smudging ceremonies.

"They don’t want to go to a shelter that’s downtown. They don’t want to sleep on a mat on a floor, they’ve already been traumatized their whole life," Cardinal Schulte explained.

"And we refuse to retraumatize people by putting them on a floor on a mat, and kicking them out in the morning."

The oil-camp-type trailers and four tiny homes are a temporary addition to the project. They total 53 emergency shelter spaces funded by the province through April next year.

"Unfortunately, because of timing, because the oil camp was coming out of B.C., we had to bring it onto the property. We didn’t have a choice, we couldn’t wait for the development permit," Cardinal Schulte said.

Before the trailers can be used, the city is assessing if they’re allowed.

Community consultation is required by law, and public feedback is welcome until Tuesday, but only on the site’s zoning.

"So things such as users or concerns about operations aren’t within the purview of that decision-making," said Lyla Peter with the City of Edmonton.

The future of the renovated hotel rooms is not in question, officials say, and the emergency shelter will likely be approved.

"It’s basically a done deal, and they’re saying 'just take it,'" Enger said.

NiGiNan's CEO is adamant the community will be better off.

"We’re just doing our best to meet the needs of the community, meet the needs of our residents, make sure we’re being good neighbours," Cardinal Schulte said.

"But at the same time provide the program that we need to provide. This is a necessary program." Top Stories

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