Edmonton homeless shelter to be rebuilt after 63 years

One of Edmonton's biggest homeless shelters will be torn down as soon as next year — and then rebuilt on the same site.

'We want to get a brand new building on the existing footprint' says Hope Mission executive director

Architectural drawing of the proposed redevelopment of the Herb Jamieson Centre. (Hope Mission)

One of Edmonton's biggest homeless shelters will be torn down as soon as next year — and then rebuilt on the same site.

The redevelopment of the Hope Mission's Herb Jamieson Centre has been given the green light to proceed, despite opposition from area residents and business owners who criticized the proposal at the Subdivision and Development Appeal Board on Wednesday.

The men's shelter, run by the Hope Mission at 101st Street and 105A Avenue, has been open since 1954.

"It's an old, tired building," said Bruce Reith, executive director of the Hope Mission. "We want to get a brand new building on the existing footprint ... that's safe for everyone that's staying there. It's just a nicer, safer building."
Bruce Reith, executive director of the Hope Mission, said the redevelopment of the Herb Jamieson Centre would cost about $16 million and could start as soon as 2018. (CBC)

The redevelopment is slated to cost $16 million, half of which Reith hopes will come from government. But the money has not yet been secured.

The Herb Jamieson currently has beds for 350 men, with another 50 temporary spots.

The redeveloped building would have 400 permanent beds in a more modern building, that would include a rooftop garden and extensive outdoor landscaping.

Reith said the new building would improve the streetscape and the community.

Zoning Permits Shelter

The Herb Jamieson Centre stands in an area that's zoned for institutional uses, meaning that a shelter is permitted. A development officer gave the Hope Mission a development permit earlier this year.

But four groups have filed official appeals to that decision. 

Brenda Chao owns the nearby Garden Bakery restaurant and said she knows the Hope Mission is trying to improve the shelter. But, she said, her business is trying to improve, too.

"It's a temporary shelter. [Clients] go to sleep at night and in the morning they let them walk around and go wherever ... They go into business, they sleep on the street, they sleep on the sidewalk. They vandalize our things. People are scared and they don't want to come to Chinatown."

Two nearby landowners said the new shelter would jeopardize development projects in the area, despite the fact a shelter already exists there and has never come close to closing.

Phil O'Hara, president of the McCauley Community League, said he knew the appeals didn't have much chance of succeeding. But he still wanted to voice his concerns about temporary housing and its concentration in inner city neighbourhoods such as his.

The city's plan to fight homelessness calls for money to be reallocated from shelters and put toward permanent housing, he said. The Herb Jamieson is "misaligned" with that goal, he added.

"People recognize that concentration is not the way to go — that we need to distribute social housing and social services throughout the city," O'Hara said outside the meeting.

"The mayor has spoken very clearly about that. City council has spoken clearly about that ... We need to provide supportive, permanent housing to people. Mats on the floor is not the solution."

Supportive Housing Still Concentrated

Reith said 96 percent of clients at the Herb Jamieson Centre stay for less than a month, and that the population is a transient one that moves between cities and only needs a temporary place to stay.

When asked if some of those beds could have been built in other parts of the city, he said: "They tried that in ... different places. It's very difficult. It's educating the public about housing people throughout the whole city."