An Edmonton nonprofit that has helped refugees and disaster victims for 34 years is closing after the Alberta government ended its no-cost lease at its downtown location.
The board of directors of the Edmonton Emergency Relief Services Society (EERSS) tried to find a new home but could not find anything affordable.
“The board made the decision to dissolve the firm because we did not have time to build,” said Treasurer Shane Harnish.
EERSS is based on its operation at 10255 104th St. in an additional government building known as Warehouse # 3.
The province leased the building to the community under a no-cost, month-to-month contract. It provided maintenance and maintenance free of charge at a cost of about $ 90,000 per year.
The situation changed when the building’s boiler went down last spring. Alberta Infrastructure decided that the cost to repair or replace equipment was too high.
The Alberta government is interested in developing some of its additional assets in Edmonton, including private companies, including the Royal Alberta Museum’s old Glenora site and Warehouse # 3.
EERSS was told in mid-August that the government was ending the lease. The firm left the premises at the end of September.
EERSS tried to raise money for a new home through online crowdsourcing sites. Harnish said he looked at the old Salvation Army building but the cost was too high.
In an email to the News, Hadin Place, Infrastructure Minister Prasad Panda’s press secretary, said that it would be pointless to spend tens of thousands of dollars annually to maintain a building that needs millions of dollars in repairs.
“We’ve worked closely with EERSS over the past six years. They knew their lease could expire at any time, given the costs associated with the building. They had plenty of time to explore the other option,” Place wrote.
“It is unfortunate that they chose to close the operation. Their contributions to the community over the years have been greatly appreciated.”
Filling in the gaps
EERSS provided emergency supplies such as clothing and household items donated to people affected by the fire or disaster. The nonprofit worked with the Edmonton Mennonite Center (EMCN) for newcomers to help establish homes for immigrants and refugees.
EMCN Executive Director Meghan Klein said the EERSS has provided a unique service to the community.
“There is a huge gap in our community now,” he said. “They’re the only shop in town that has done this.”
The Mennonite Center is now trying to fill that need by itself. On Tuesday, the organization opened a temporary drop-in center to accept a limited range of donations to help newcomers to the city.
“Right now, EMCN does not have the ability to change the services that EERSS is offering in the community,” Klein said.
“But we are looking for ways to fill that gap because it is so much needed in the community. Newcomers, frequent, and homeless, in particular, come in very short. There’s nothing in common.”
Earlier this year, Alberta Infrastructure implemented a new policy, aimed at standardizing rentals that nonprofits and businesses renting space in government buildings pay.
In some rural Alberta towns, nonprofit organizations face rent increases of tens of thousands of dollars each year.
The government says the new policy is on the playing field to ensure that similar firms pay the same range of rent.