Stoney Creek food bank adapting after its home base closes (updated)

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Published March 23, 2023 at 4:30 pm

The president of Stoney Creek Community Food Bank says they are working fast to serve clients again, after the City of Hamilton’s discovery that its home base is sliding off the edge of its foundation.

Several community groups are affected by the closure of Saltfleet Community Centre, which will be shuttered for at least a couple of months while City of Hamilton Public Works awaits a damage report from structural engineers. The closure leaves the food bank, an essential service, without premises to serve clients.

“We have reached out to the other food banks in the Hamilton area asking them to please serve our clients while we are without a premise to serve from,” Stoney Creek food bank president Katherine Isaac said in an email to inTheHammer on Thursday (March 23). “Many are working behind the scenes to get our essential service up and running as quickly as possible.

Wednesday, Public Works general manager Carlyle Khan and Manager of Strategic Planning, Capital and Compliance Robyn Ellis outlined a “worsening” (in Ellis’s terming) situation with the community centre. A facilities assessment late last year led to flagging concerns with the 1980s-vintage building. Two weeks ago, a consultant confirmed that the community centre has issues that make it unsafe for the public.

“A consultant visited on March 9 and they discovered abnormal cracking in the foundation,” said Khan, who added that the food bank was the first community organization that he informed of the bad news.”The building envelope was shifting, moving — slipping off the edge of its foundation. So out of an abundance of caution, we thought it was very prudent to inform the community groups and try to make accommodations.

“It’s a significant inconvenience to our community groups and for that, we sincerely apologize,” Khan said. “We’re committed to working with the groups that are based at the Saltfleet Community Centre, and we want to enable them to have minimal disruption.”

The food bank, which is a member of Hamilton Food Share, has been housed at the centre at 605 Hwy. 8 since 1991. The Stoney Creek Historical Society and a community soccer program are among the other users. There is a possibility the food bank could still use refrigeration and storage at the site while it closed to the public.

Options provided; food drive upcoming

Isaac said the city has proffered two possible alternative locations until repairs to the community centre are completed.

“One location would allow us to continue to receive donations (and) food drive items and store these items until we are back at our current location,” Isaac said. “These premises would not allow us to serve clients. The second option is on a bus route, which would be beneficial for our clients. However, the space requires modifications to work for us.”

A food drive in the area is slated for the first weekend in April.

Ward 10 Coun. Jeff Beattie, the local elected representative, said he is confident the closure will not affect the food drive. Beattie also added that he believes there is greater potential for the community centre to be a hub of activity and services in Stoney Creek.

“I have always believed, and the community has agreed, that this building has been underutilized for the benefit of our community,” Beattie said. ” Starting in December, I’ve been working with city staff to get a better understanding of the building and any deficiencies. This is what possibly led to staff discovering the structural issues.

“We’ve had to pivot from exploring better usage of the building, to temporarily finding new homes for the user groups that call it home,” added Beattie, one of three representatives from Stoney Creek along with Couns. Matt Francis (Ward 5) and Brad Clark (9).

“The priority will be the food bank — this is an absolutely essential service for the community.”

At the briefing on Wednesday, Ellis and Khan outlined how a structural engineer will assess the damage and inform the public works division of its options. Those could include repairs, or decommissioning.

“It depends on what ends up in the report,” Khan said. “We’ll assess the options and hope to have it back in service as soon as possible.”

Representatives of the historical society had been able to remove some contents and material, he added.

Soil erosion along the Escarpment, plus the increased frequency and intensity of storms due to climate change, is creating maintenance challenges for Hamilton Public Works. The department’s responsibilities include city-owned buildings, as well as water filtration. Ellis noted the work on the Saltfleet building would include finding out why it is sliding.

“The structural consultants who have visited flagged a need to work with geotechnical engineers to identify the root causes,” Ellis said.

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