180K pounds of garbage removed from 950 Edmonton homeless camps this year

A homeless camp in Edmonton Thursday, July 9, 2015.
A homeless camp in Edmonton Thursday, July 9, 2015. Vinesh Pratap, Global News

In the first seven months of 2016, 951 homeless camps have been dismantled in Edmonton, according to a report going to the city’s Community and Public Services Committee next week.

The report also found that between January and July of this year, 180,000 pounds of garbage was collected from city homeless camps, including 4,811 needles, 137 weapons and 93 propane tanks.

Material found at the camps ranged from litter and residential garbage to larger items such as couches and mattresses. Bio-hazardous materials were also disposed of, including used needles and human waste.

Watch below: Edmonton police say they found knives and hatchets while cleaning up a homeless camp in the river valley in July 2015

At a meeting in September, Ward 6 councillor Scott McKeen asked administration to dig up information on how many homeless camps have been found and cleaned up so far this year, the nature of the waste collected, the amount of staff time and cost to manage the camps and key areas where camps exist.

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Because of the early spring weather, McKeen said several people in his ward came forward with concerns about homeless camps in the River Valley.

READ MORE: ‘It looks like a dump’: Members of Edmonton Legion frustrated by nearby homeless camps

A map created by the city shows the majority of homeless camps were cleaned up along the river valley this year, but other locations are scattered throughout Edmonton.

Homeless encampment density map.
Homeless encampment density map. Credit, City of Edmonton

More than $2 million has been spent on responding to and cleaning up homeless camps in the past two years.

Since 2014, more than 2,300 encampments have been removed, and there has been a 46 per cent increase in the number of homeless camps cleaned from 2014 to the end of July 2016.

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READ MORE: Looking at different ways to help the most vulnerable in Edmonton

In 2014, 653 camps were removed. That number increased to 714 in 2015.

The city report said the increase is partly due to streamlined processes, but added the number of encampments signals a “continuing concern” with homelessness in Edmonton.

In 2013, the city adopted a new approach to tackling homeless camps in response to growing complaints from Edmontonians. It included proactive monitoring of public land, more dialogue with people experiencing homelessness and increased efforts to connect vulnerable people with support services.

READ MORE: Some Edmonton social agencies see jump in usage

In 2014, council added a dedicated park ranger peace officer to patrol the river valley during the summer. Additional funding to support outreach services was also approved.

The report will be discussed at the Community and Public Services Committee meeting on Monday.

The 2016 Edmonton homeless count was conducted last week but the numbers have not yet been released.