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More homeless camps popping up in Winnipeg as others get torn down

The homeless camp outside of the Manitoba Metis Federation headquarters which was torn down in June. Clay Young / Global News

As big homeless encampments are torn down in Winnipeg, experts say it’s causing other camps to pop up around the city.

Marion Willis, founder of St. Boniface Street Links, has noticed about 10 new homeless camps in the St. Boniface region since the ones near the Disraeli Freeway were torn down last month.

“Instead of one big encampment, what you end up with, as is the case when [the camp at] MMF came down, is a whole lot of small encampments spread out through a larger area,” Willis said.
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Read more: Winnipeg Disraeli Freeway homeless camps slowly dismantled amid eviction order

Willis and her team cleaned up an encampment under a St. Boniface bridge this week for health and safety reasons.

“It had become quite an eyesore, just the stench of garbage and clothes,” she said.

Although she was able to get the person living there into housing, Willis said she still has almost 80 others on a waitlist, adding she isn’t sure how many encampments there currently are outside the St. Boniface area she looks after.

Kris Clemens, the communications manager for End Homelessness Winnipeg, noted many of the camps city-wide were likely already around since the spring, before the big encampments near the Disraeli Freeway came down after the city deemed them unsafe.

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“But many residents of those encampments did simply relocate their tents to new locations, feeling that the options available to them for shelter and housing did not meet their needs and would not provide a safer or more dignified living environment compared to camping out,” Clemens said.

Read more: Winnipeg pilot project to deter homeless camps cancelled, councillors say they weren’t informed

Willis understands some people prefer to live outside, but said they should be taking care of themselves and their surroundings.

“There’s always going to be that small segment of the housing population that really doesn’t want to be housed, certainly not right now. Maybe once it gets a bit colder and that’s fine, but you still have to live responsibly,” Willis said.

The City of Winnipeg said it continues to rely on its partner agencies when notified of a new encampment. The city does not intervene unless there is a risk to public or personal safety.