After closure notices were posted at the encampment in Rossdale on Nov. 8, Edmonton police and city staff were on site Thursday help relocate people and begin the clean-up process.
“Camp Pekiwewin created a lot of concerns around safety for the people that were staying there, also for the neighbourhood, surrounding community, and so working toward the closure of Camp Pekiwewin was an important goal for the city,” said Christel Kjenner, director of housing and homelessness for the city.
“The goal for the next few weeks will be to remove as much waste as possible, given the snow cover and the freezing temperatures, and to just ensure that the site is safe for the public to use again.”
Police tape could be seen around Camp Pekiwewin Thursday morning and officers were on scene.
“It didn’t have to be like this,” camp grandmother Kathy Hamelin said.
“A lot of people got on that bus full of fear and full of tears and broken hearts. And all these officers here? Why was it necessary for 12 officers? There’s only 20 to 25 people left in the camp.
“And these campers are just traumatized. They’re being forced to just up and go,” she said.
A charter bus was available for anyone who wanted to access available space at a local shelter, the city said in a news release.
City staff were advising anyone still at the camp that the area is closed.
“We strive to have a city where no one is forced to stay outside and everybody has warm and safe options,” Kjenner said.
“Over several months, the city has worked towards a peaceful closure of this encampment by actively engaging with the camp organizers,” the city’s news release said.
“In support of the organizers’ recent announcement of a wind down of the camp, the city provided charter bus transportation from Camp Pekiwewin to the Edmonton Convention Centre and other shelter options over multiple days.
“The city also provided the organizers with bus tickets for camp occupants to use public transit to relocate themselves outside of the charter bus schedule.”
The city thanked its agency partners for all their work and stressed the primary goal has always been the safety of those in the camp and also the surrounding community.
The goal continues to be providing health and social services and pathways to permanent housing, the city said.
Over the past few months, the outreach and coordinated access team met with 318 people from Camp Pekiwewin, Peace Camp and the Terrace Building, the city said.
“These individuals received screening, triage and referrals to housing services and programs best suited to address their circumstances.”
So far, 73 have completed intake to housing first programs. Nineteen of those individuals have accessed bridge housing and are working to secure permanent housing and 36 of them have been housed in permanent housing, the city said.
“Since the pandemic was declared in March, more than 1,000 Edmontonians have accessed housing thanks to the collective efforts of social agencies and housing providers. Recent cold weather has increased demand for shelter spaces in Edmonton.”
The city said the temporary shelter at the Edmonton Convention Centre has reached capacity each night this past weekend but spaces are still available at other facilities, including the overnight shelter at Commonwealth Stadium. If there’s a lineup at the Convention Centre, the city said it will offer to bus people to another site.
As of Thursday, the shelter at Commonwealth Stadium moved to 24/7 operations.
It is offering day and night sleeping options, meal service and access to social services.
“We’re always going to be here,” Hamelin said. “All the organizers, all the young people… we’re still here. Even though the camp is going down, we’re not losing track of our people.”