Calls to Calgary’s encampment response team on the rise

Click to play video: 'Calls to Calgary’s encampment team increase'
Calls to Calgary’s encampment team increase
WATCH: The affordable housing crisis is crippling Calgary’s less fortunate. But as Jayme Doll reports, despite big government plans to tackle the problem, it could take years before concrete change is felt. – Nov 23, 2023

As mundane urban city life churns on around them, a growing population of people are seeking shelter, trying to survive another night.

Some are in tents tucked among the trees on a narrow median between a busy Calgary road, others are in blankets under bridges and benches, their hope dropping with the mercury.

“I lost my kids. I lost my home. I lost my family. I lost everything,” sobbed a woman crouched inside her tent pitched along Memorial Drive.

“You don’t know what it’s like to wake up wanting to die … I do,” she cried.

And she’s not the only one, said another woman sitting on a log inside a Calgary homeless encampment.

Click to play video: 'Calgary encampment dismantled over safety concerns'
Calgary encampment dismantled over safety concerns

Frost sits heavy on the cluster of tents; shopping carts are wrapped in orange and blue tarps. A role of toilet paper hangs from a tree branch, everyone is shivering.

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“Nobody cares,” said the woman on the log. “I’ve moved 64 times,” yelled the woman inside the tent. “Nothing is going to change.”

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Since Jan. 1, 2023, the city’s encampment team received 6,476 calls for service. That’s an increase of 1,000 since the year before. According to the city, encampments are dismantled after a warning or if they are deemed unsafe.

Click to play video: 'Calgary responds to 4,193 calls about encampments so far in 2023'
Calgary responds to 4,193 calls about encampments so far in 2023

Across the river, a 33-year-old man organizes a large duffle bag containing everything he owns.

“I was robbed last night,” said Brandon Blanchard.

“That’s where we had our tent set up for like four days and the cops made us take it down,” he points to a spot on the bank of the Bow River. “And they gave us another $500 ticket,” said Blanchard, adding he’s received 15 $500 fines for illegal camping.

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“You put your name on the housing list and then they say they are going to help you get into a house and you’re just a number, check in everyday and nothing,” he said.

He’s one of 2,000 people currently being triaged on a list for affordable housing.

Click to play video: 'Calgary police’s mounted unit reveals stolen goods at Bow River encampments'
Calgary police’s mounted unit reveals stolen goods at Bow River encampments

“You are looking at a three-year plan to get a couple thousand units online,” said Matt Noruma with Calgary Homeless Foundation.

“That is a drop in the bucket. We are about 20,000 households short of affordable housing that we need in this city alone. That plan is underway but it’s going to take time.”

Noruma said Calgary has on average between 80 and 130 encampments at any time. While he said there is enough shelter space for everyone, some prefer to live roughly outside.

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Blanchard still has something many others Global News spoke with don’t: hope.

“Yeah, yes I do,” he nodded. “I want to get my life back.”

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