A prominent social service agency that caters to vulnerable and homeless residents says it will be changing its client services for at least the next year as it gets ready to move out of its old community centre that it leases from the Edmonton Oilers.
However, a spokesman for Boyle Street Community Services denied that the agency is being evicted from its main venue just north of Rogers Place by the Oilers Entertainment Group (OEG), which has plans to redevelop the site.
“We’re not at that place yet. It’s not an eviction,” Elliott Tanti, senior manager of communications and engagement, said Monday.
“Service delivery is going to change out of this facility. We are going to have more details about it Tuesday. We are notifying our staff today, and working to ensure we have the best information possible to share with our community because we don’t want to cause upset.”
Boyle Street has occupied the centre on 105 Avenue since 1996, offering a variety of services including drop-ins, health supports, counselling, food and links to housing. It also used to house a supervised drug consumption site, but that closed in 2021.
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A former banana ripening warehouse, the facility has never been well suited for Boyle Street’s programming, and has now become dilapidated and subject to floods, among other issues.
After a number of setbacks and controversies, the agency secured a development permit earlier this year to build a new centre about 500 metres north, in a former paintball venue at 101 Street and 107A Avenue. Called King Thunderbird Centre — Okimaw Peyesew Kamik in Cree — construction is set to begin as early as next week and take about one year.
Boyle Street is raising $28.5 million for the project, of which $10 million is being donated by the Edmonton Oilers Community Foundation.
OEG also paid $5 million to buy the old site, which is on a parcel of land north of the arena the group intends to transform over the next several years into a mixed-use development called Village at Ice District. It will include retail and commercial space, along with up to 2,500 residential units.
No one from the community foundation or OEG could be reached for comment Monday to say when construction is set to begin, or if that’s the reason prompting Boyle Street’s service changes.
Mayor Amarjeet Sohi said Monday that his office had heard rumblings of changes at Boyle Street but he did not have details. He said any major disruptions at the agency without contingency plans could have a “devastating effect” on its clientele and could lead to an increase in social disorder in the city’s core.
Tanti said Tuesday’s news conference will “clarify what is and isn’t happening, the relationship with the Oilers and all of that.”
With files from Keith Gerein