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Camp Pekiwewin in Rossdale closed, police and city crews on site

Click to play video: 'Edmonton’s Camp Pekiwewin homeless encampment officially closed' Edmonton’s Camp Pekiwewin homeless encampment officially closed
Edmonton's largest homeless camp is officially shut down. Thursday morning police and peace officers moved in on the Rossdale site, closing off the area and sending people to alternate shelters. Chris Chacon reports – Nov 12, 2020

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.”

Read more: Camp Pekiwewin given a ‘bit more time’ to shut down despite weekend closure agreement

Police tape could be seen around Camp Pekiwewin Thursday morning and officers were on scene.

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“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.

Edmonton police and peace officers at Camp Pekiwewin in the Rossdale neighbourhood Thursday, Nov. 12, 2020. Dave Carels, Global News

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.

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Read more: Edmonton’s Camp Pekiwewin set to close down Saturday afternoon

“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.”

City staff and police officers officially close Camp Pekiwewin in Rossdale on Nov. 12, 2020. Dave Carels, Global News

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.

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Read more: Edmonton to receive $17M in federal dollars for new housing

The goal continues to be providing health and social services and pathways to permanent housing, the city said.

Click to play video: 'Camp Pekiwewin still standing as people refuse to leave' Camp Pekiwewin still standing as people refuse to leave
Camp Pekiwewin still standing as people refuse to leave – Nov 10, 2020

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.

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Edmonton police and peace officers at Camp Pekiwewin in the Rossdale neighbourhood Thursday, Nov. 12, 2020. Dave Carels, Global News

“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.”

Read more: Edmonton Convention Centre to open as temporary homeless shelter Friday

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.

It is offering day and night sleeping options, meal service and access to social services.

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“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.”

Click to play video: 'Edmonton to receive $17M in federal dollars for new homeless housing' Edmonton to receive $17M in federal dollars for new homeless housing
Edmonton to receive $17M in federal dollars for new homeless housing – Oct 27, 2020

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