CANMORE – The Safe Park program slotted to take off in May has been postponed as Town of Canmore administration continues to monitor the changing needs of the community.
The postponement, announced during Canmore’s regular council meeting Tuesday (April 7), will also see the staff resources for the program reallocated to monitor emerging housing needs.
“As a result of the pandemic, we have had to reimagine the safe park program for the spring and potentially the season,” said Lisa Brown, the Town’s Manager of Community Social Development.
“The Safe Park program was originally designed to provide Canmore residents who were seasonally employed with a safe place to stay while working in Canmore. Sadly many of our businesses are currently closed and the demand for seasonal workforce will not be the same, at least not in the spring, and as such we’re postponing the safe park program itself.”
Brown said the staff resources the Town approved to hire to administer the program would be reallocated as a result of the postponement.
“The staff resources that we were hoping to hire for administration of the safe park program will now be hired to monitor emerging housing needs and the changing resources within our community,” she said.
“The landscape is changing, we really want to understand that.”
Councillor Joanna McCallum asked Brown to expand on what the position would do.
“I was wondering if you could give us more detail about this position switch that you are planning for the Safe Park program to this emergency housing needs position,” she said.
Brown explained her department is currently looking at the emerging situation stemming from COVID-19 coronavirus, which has seen multiple workers laid off in the Bow Valley, some of which were given notice to leave staff accommodations as a result.
“Right now what we’re doing is we’re looking at thresholds within our community, of things that we really need to be aware of and then what would happen if – so, for instance, what if more individuals start residing in their vehicles? The situation for why they’re residing in their vehicles is most likely different from what the safe park program was based on,” she explained.
“So we want to understand that and make sure we can safely house people appropriately or work with other resources to make sure that individuals don’t lose their housing in the first place. What we’re trying to do is understand where those thresholds are and make a plan where if it gets to that point where – and it seems to happen quite quickly – where all of a sudden we have 50 … people who are residing in their van, we need to react quite quickly.”
The Safe Park Program was approved by council in February as the municipality's solution to what is commonly known as Vanmore.
The pilot program would have seen 50 parking stalls dispersed across privately owned and municipally owned lots, with each to offer five stalls for vehicle dwellers between the hours of 8 p.m. and 9 a.m. It was designed to provide a safe place to park overnight for individuals who are employed in the Bow Valley and are dwelling in their vehicles.
The ongoing global pandemic, however, has caused the Town to reassess some of its programs, including Safe Park, slotted to take off in May as the needs continue to change.
“Certainly [there’s been] questions in the community about how some of these plans we developed a long time ago will be rolling out or not rolling out,” said Mayor John Borrowman during Brown’s presentation.
“I appreciate the work your team continues to do to assess the need in that community. We all know that the needs are going to get greater, not less, so it's reassuring knowing that we have such an awesome team here in your department working on this.”
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