The provincial government announced July 5 what has been public knowledge in Thompson since late April: that the new 24-hour sobering centre will be located in one of the buildings at the former University College of the North (UCN) campus at the corner of Princeton Drive and Station Road.
Thompson city council approved a deal to see ownership of the buildings transferred to the city at a meeting in the spring. The city will pay land transfer taxes on the assessed value of the four-acre-plus property and the three buildings, which have nearly 79,000 square feet of floor space collectively.
Once operational, the centre will provide a place for non-violent intoxicated people to stay and be monitored while the effects of alcohol or other drugs wear off.
“It is more appropriate than sending somebody to a police holding cell,” said Justice Minister Cameron Friesen during an online press conference July 5. “It is more appropriate for the utilization of our health care system than sending them to the hospital.”
Nearly 2,500 people were housed in Thompson RCMP detachment cells under the Intoxicated Persons Detention Act in 2020 and more than 1,100 have already been lodged in them this year.
“This puts a significant burden on Thompson’s rcmp detachment,” Friesen said.
Mayor Colleen Smook said the buildings are in good shape and won’t require much work before being ready for, first, an interim sobering centre and then the permanent facility.
“We’re hoping that – to get us open initially, there’s limited work that has to be done,” she said. “Some of the things farther down the line may require more extensive renovations but i really don’t think it’s going to take us very long to get it started.”
The mayor also said efforts will be made to mitigate impacts on Wapanohk Community School and nearby residents once the centre, which is being supported by $2.8 million in provincial funding and will be overseen by the city in partnership with other agencies, opens to clients.
“We definitely talked about the different ways that we’re going to make it to accommodate the school and the whole community,” Smook said. “This is basically something that is very well thought out and going to be located so there’s not very much impact on the noticeability to the school or to the residents of the nearby community.”
The buildings were constructed in 1968 and have been mostly vacant since UCN moved to its new Thompson campus in 2014.