Advertisement

RCMP tear down Slave Lake encampment due to safety concerns

Police in Slave Lake, Alta., have dismantled a homeless encampment that has been the subject of safety concerns from residents over the last several years. Courtesy / Lynn Bowes

Police in Slave Lake, Alta., have dismantled a homeless encampment that has been the subject of safety concerns from residents over the last several years.

Staff Sgt. Casey Bruyns, detachment commander of the Slake Lake RCMP, confirmed in a news release the “Flat Top” encampment was torn down Wednesday.

“All of the individuals at the encampment left voluntarily,” Bruyns said, attributing the smooth transition to the RCMP building relationships with those experiencing homelessness. “The RCMP will continue to provide enhanced patrols for the time being to ensure the continued safety of all the people of Slave Lake.”

Bruyns said residents have been growing concerned about the Flat Top camp, which was situated on provincial land south of town.

Click to play video: 'Costs of cleaning up encampments'
Costs of cleaning up encampments

Global News recently reported town councillors suspended homeless shelter operations until Nov. 1 due to a growing crime rate, which some residents said stemmed from the shelter and Flat Top.

Story continues below advertisement

During a meeting on May 21, Deputy Mayor Shawn Gramlich demanded RCMP tear down Flat Top. Bruyns said at the time RCMP couldn’t dismantle the camp without orders from the province but encouraged residents to report issues to the police.

Breaking news from Canada and around the world sent to your email, as it happens.
For news impacting Canada and around the world, sign up for breaking news alerts delivered directly to you when they happen.

Get breaking National news

For news impacting Canada and around the world, sign up for breaking news alerts delivered directly to you when they happen.
By providing your email address, you have read and agree to Global News' Terms and Conditions and Privacy Policy.

In Wednesday’s statement, Bruyns said he met with conservation officers, health officials, first responders and provincial and municipal staff on Aug. 23, 2023, to discuss the encampment. The Mounties were told several provincial ministries were discussing the matter and actionable responses would be taken once ministers reached a decision, he said.

“Since then, Slave Lake RCMP has increased patrols within the encampment to ensure the safety of those living there, as well as checking for persons with outstanding warrants and searching for any stolen property,” Bruyns said.

“The patrols’ findings have not substantiated any correlation between the homeless and an increase in local crime.”

Bruyns said addressing complex social issues like homelessness requires a “measured and collaborative approach.” Through its work, he said additional supports are needed for long-term solutions to social issues.

“Considering the multitude of partners that have been weighing in on the issue, it is our hope that a long-term compassionate solution will be found and enacted,” he said.

The Mounties in Slave Lake established a working group, which first met on June 4, to discuss short- and long-term solutions to the homeless crisis. The group concluded RCMP and Conservation Officers would remove the encampment and block future access to the site.

Story continues below advertisement
Click to play video: 'Slave Lake councillor criticized for controversial homeless comments'
Slave Lake councillor criticized for controversial homeless comments

In a social media statement, Mayor Francesca Ward said Flat Top residents were brought to the Slave Lake Native Friendship Centre, where volunteers with WJS Slave Lake, a social services organization, would help them obtain proper IDs and connect with addiction and treatment supports.

“The Town of Slave Lake is working with WJS to make payments for photos for ID and transportation to services as requested,” she said. “(It) has also provided shelter for animals located within the encampment at our local pound, as well as temporary storage of personal belongings during this process.”

Ward said the provincial government will undertake the cleanup and reclaim the site within the coming weeks.

She said two more encampments were also identified: one near the town’s weigh scales and another near the former Flat Top encampment.

Story continues below advertisement

“These have both been given an order to vacate and will be dismantled by the Government of Alberta on expiry of that order,” Ward said. “The current level of social disorder and criminal activity are no longer tolerated in our community. The encampments pose a significant risk to public safety for all of our residents both housed and unhoused.”

Click to play video: 'Federal housing advocate calls for end to forced evictions from homeless tent encampments'
Federal housing advocate calls for end to forced evictions from homeless tent encampments

Sponsored content

AdChoices