Winnipeg officials have a plan to remove homeless encampments on public property, Those living there say they have no idea where they will go, and community support groups say tearing tent cities down won’t keep them from popping up again.
The City of Winnipeg is currently accepting proposals from companies to clean up several homeless camps on city spaces. The company awarded the contract will also be responsible for the safe collection and disposal of needles and sharps found in public.
The city’s RFP document says the company chosen will collect “bulky waste from temporary homeless encampments on public property,” said a City spokesperson in a statement issued to Global News
‘Bulky waste’ includes tarps, tents, mattresses, and shopping carts.
The people who will be directly affected by the city actions say it won’t solve the problem.
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“We went out of the way because we were kicked out of everywhere else,” said Deborah Siemans, who frequently spends her nights camping on a city riverbank.
“Now where the hell are we supposed to go?”
Siemans said some of her peers will not be accepted at local shelters, and riverbank camping has provided them with a safe alternative.
“With Siloam Mission you have to be in at 7 p.m., in bed by 8 p.m. With Salvation Army there’s no privacy or safety. Main Street Project is a community group too, but they only have so many mats,” she said.
Adrienne Dudek, Main Street Project’s Director for Supportive and Transition housing, said a better strategy needs to be worked out by all the stakeholders involved.
“You’re asking people who are not always in control of their own substance abuse or mental health to fit into existing resources.
“We really have to be innovative and creative with services we can offer people,” Dudek said.
Originally the Bear Clan was interested in bidding for the contract, as their volunteers have lots of experience with collecting needles and sharps, but when they learned the proposal included taking away blankets, tents and tarps, they told the city they were not interested.
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“I would not be comfortable just going and taking away something that I view as garbage but they view as treasure, and so I don’t want to be the one to take that away from them,” said Bear Clan co-founder James Favel.
The city should explore a model that includes offering low income housing to people before taking away their belongings, Favel said.