The city of Edmonton is keeping a close eye on a new encampment that has been set up at Indigenous Art Park in the river valley.
Despite fears of another large tent city, organizers said this camp is all about healing and honouring Indigenous traditions.
“This is the peace camp. We are trying peace again because we tried to peacefully camp here before but there was just too much drug use for it to be a safe place,” camp volunteer Trudy Carlson said.
So far, it’s different than the Rossdale camp that sheltered hundreds of people last summer but was eventually closed by the city.
“This is another try to help the homeless and the ones who are stuck in the addiction,” Carlson said.
Carlson said drug use is not welcome in the core area but harm reduction supports — such as naloxone, the medication used to reverse an overdose — are available on site.
She said tents were set up earlier this week with the help of multiple Indigenous-run organizations.
“It’s been a place where people can come to get water, get food, come to gather around a fire and share the experience with each other,” camp visitor Joshua Rudd said.
However, getting supplies to the camp has been difficult ever since the city closed the park entrance and stationed police officers on site.
“We got to walk flats of water down the stairs, got to walk up and get doughnuts and coffee and everything else simply to get supplies down to the people who need them,” Rudd said.
But the city said the entrance closure is to reduce safety issues between vehicle traffic and pedestrians. Carlson said she thinks there is more to it than that.
The city said while it is not legal to erect structures and stay overnight in a public park, it is working towards a peaceful resolution.
Carlson said the camp is meant to be for healing and prayers, noting that volunteers will maintain a fire to honour the land and people.
“They have a safe place to come and gather and not be judged and not be looked down upon,” Rudd said.
Carlson told Global News that some people said they plan on staying at the camp until they are able to find adequate housing.