Appeal board reverses Mat Program decision, says church basement okay for shelter

But Friendship Centre temporary site moving ahead regardless

Joe McWilliams
Lakeside Leader

Slave Lake’s Mat Program organizers got the result they were hoping for at last week’s Subdivision and Development Appeal Board (SDAB) hearing. An October decision by the Municipal Planning Commission (MPC) to deny the program’s application to operate the overnight homeless shelter in a former church basement was overturned.

“But we are imposing extra conditions,” said the SDAB secretary in an email to The Leader.

What those conditions are she didn’t say – just that the decision would be published within 15 days.

The SDAB decision does not necessarily mean the Mat Program will be back in the old St. Peter’s Ecumenical Church basement this winter. For one thing, the owner of the building has to agree. One reason the MPC denied this year’s Mat Program application for that space was that people in the neighbourhood had complained about certain incidents of bad behaviour. It was the MPC’s conclusion that a more suitable location should be found. That of course is easier said than done. The Slave Lake Native Friendship Centre had offered some space it has for this season only, and an effort to upgrade it for the purpose was underway the past few weeks, with a lot of volunteer help and donations.

Barb Courtorielle said last Thursday morning work continues on the Friendship Centre space.

“I can’t wait,” she said. “If I don’t have this in place by Nov. 30 I lose my funding.”

Courtorielle found the news of the SDAB decision quite surprising. She had been expecting exactly the opposite.

“Let’s see what happens,” she said.

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