Bridgeland-Riverside isn’t the homeless population magnet that it used to be, if current trends are to be believed.
According to some business owners in the area, the steady stream of homeless people that used to be a common sight on Bridgeland’s streets is not so common anymore.
“I think it’s because there’s more development in the area,” Gail Ashbourne, manager of Jacques Home Furnishings by Eisenberg’s, explained in a recent interview.
Her store on 4 Street N.E., is within sight of the Calgary Drop-In Centre, which just across the Bow River in downtown.
Bridgeland’s proximity to the DI has long been a concern for a lot of Calgarians who have been leery of visiting the area. Recently, however, businesses around the area have found that reputation is changing, if only at a slower pace.
“In the last year at least, things have changed,” said Doreen Rivest, manager of Luke’s Drug Mart, also on 4th Street N.E. at 1st Avenue.
“Also since the closure of the Cecil Hotel,” she said.
Before the Cecil Hotel, just west of the Drop-In Centre on 4th Avenue S.W., closed its doors in 2008, it had been the temporary home for a number of the city’s homeless population, paying low rent. It had also been a hotspot for crime, which is the reason why the city bought it out.
“We still have the occasional issue but it’s not severe,” said Ashbourne. “We can always call the cops if there is any.”
Bridgeland boasts a strong partnership with the city, according to Bridgeland-Riverside Community President Peggy Wouts.
“We have a safety director on our board, and a great connection with the police force and liaison,” she said.
Wouts also said that the so-called homeless problem is not restricted to Bridgeland, but involves the whole city.
“It affects communities in many different ways,” said Wouts, “It’s a complex issue. It requires critical analysis and critical thinking.
“We need to focus not on its association with crime. Homelessness itself is not a crime,” she said.