John Howard Society halfway house moving to Forest Lawn to make way for Stampede expansion

The John Howard Society is moving its halfway house to Forest Lawn from Victoria Park with council approval. It's still raising money for a permanent home in Manchester.

Little opposition to temporary relocation as organization tries to find money for permanent home

This former emergency homeless shelter in Forest Lawn will soon be used as a temporary halfway house.

Forest Lawn will soon be home to a halfway house run by the Calgary John Howard Society.

The facility, known as Bedford House, is currently located in Victoria Park. The city expropriated the land in 2005 as the space is needed by the Calgary Stampede for its expansion.

The society has secured a new site in the southeast community of Manchester. However, it's still raising money for the new facility, which will help former prisoners re-integrate into society. 

The group's executive director Gordon Sand said the organization started looking for a temporary facility last year once it learned the Stampede wants them out of the current facility by March 1. The building will be torn down.

City council has approved the temporary rezoning of an emergency homeless shelter it owns at 2404 50th Street S.E. The building is currently empty.

Little opposition

There has been little opposition to the move to Forest Lawn.

"We did a lot of community consultation. We met with all of the community associations. We talked to the schools. We talked to the BRZ (business revitalization zone). There's obviously concerns," said Sand.

However, most seem comfortable that with proper conditions, the temporary arrangement can work. 

The John Howard Society says 89 per cent of all offenders on day parole completed their parole without committing further crimes in 2013. Of those who do re-offend, only 0.1 per cent of offences involved violence.

Police chief Roger Chaffin stated in a letter to the society he has no objections to the move. In the letter, Chaffin said the Calgary Police Service has an excellent relationship with the society and he expects that will continue in its new location.

Not all are pleased

Still, some in the community aren't happy about the halfway house moving in.

Tracy Labinowicz lives two blocks from the new location. In a letter to the city, she said the area has problems with prostitutes and drug dealers. She feels that will be a temptation for the residents of the halfway house.

Sand said the people who will be staying there will have 24-hour supervision and will often leave the area to go to work or to be with family members. 

"They're not just staying in that location so there's temptations all over the city. They're always faced with that. The fact that there's temptations in the first two or three blocks, we're not too concerned about that," said Sand.

"If they're going to engage in anything at all, it's probably not going to be in front of the halfway house."

The area's councillor, Andre Chabot, said he's optimistic the John Howard Society will work out a Good Neighbour Agreement with the surrounding community. Such an agreement can outline specific conditions for the people staying at the halfway house, which could alleviate community concerns.

The John Howard Society can stay at the Forest Lawn location for up to five years. Sand says he hopes the organization can be in its new Manchester location in the next two years or so.


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