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Edmonton looking at managing ‘small-scale’ homeless encampments this summer

Click to play video: 'Edmonton looking at managing ‘small-scale’ homeless encampments this summer' Edmonton looking at managing ‘small-scale’ homeless encampments this summer
Edmonton is considering funding and managing homeless encampments this summer as part of a strategy to address homelessness. If approved the pilot program could start in July. Kim Smith reports on the concerns of one business. – Jun 21, 2022

City of Edmonton officials are considering funding and managing homeless encampments this summer as part of a strategy to address homelessness.

Read more: Number of homeless Edmontonians has doubled; city facing lack of shelter space this winter

On Monday evening, city councillors voted 11-2 in favour of directing the administration to look further into piloting small-scale sanctioned encampments for summer 2022 as one strategy to support the safety and wellbeing of people experiencing homelessness and reduce impacts to surrounding businesses and communities.

Ward O-day’min Councillor Anne Stevenson made the motion.

“Encampments are a tragic reality in our community,” she said.

“We can’t solve the issue that that represents overnight. That’s going to be a gradual process and one we’re making good progress towards. So, in the meantime, how do we make things slightly less bad?”

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Read more: City looking at different options to address increase in homelessness in Edmonton

Stevenson said the intent is for these camps to be a bridge for people on their way to more stable housing.

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Federal government announces $14.9M to build affordable housing units in Edmonton – Jul 6, 2021

“This… is intended to be short-duration managed encampments — get people ready to move into the supportive housing — and help stop some of that… cycling through in the meantime,” Stevenson said.

“That these encampments can be a place for people to get their paperwork in order, get lined up, so that when the new supportive housing units open up this summer, they are able to move into those right away,” she explained later Tuesday.

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

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Details still being worked out include the number, location(s), the type of accommodation (tents or another form of temporary housing?) and the exact size of the encampments, according to city manager Andre Corbould.

The intent would be to provide washrooms and social services on site.

Monday’s vote in favour of the motion means city administration will report back to council by July 4 with a more detailed plan. Councillors will again vote on whether to move ahead.

Click to play video: 'Homeless encampments on the rise in Edmonton' Homeless encampments on the rise in Edmonton
Homeless encampments on the rise in Edmonton – Oct 29, 2021

Every spring, a homeless encampment starts growing on 95 Street just north of the LRT tracks.

“This neighbourhood has always been a little rough, there’s no question about it, but the dynamics over the past four or five years have changed,” said Rob Skolarchuk, whose family has owned an automotive repair shop in the area for 48 years.

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“It’s a lot younger people. Zero regard for people’s property, zero regard for people, zero regard for the law. It’s almost like the wild west out here and it’s getting quite frightening.”

He witnessed an assault with a weapon Tuesday morning, in fact.

“There’s been a lot of unruliness. You can’t leave anything. If it’s not nailed down, it’s gone. Even if it’s nailed down, it’s gone. In fact, we had some fencing stolen last night.

“There’s a lot of unruliness, garbage, feces all over the place, needles.”

Click to play video: 'City of Edmonton debates how to manage homeless encampments' City of Edmonton debates how to manage homeless encampments
City of Edmonton debates how to manage homeless encampments – May 11, 2022

Skolarchuk said people staying in the encampment cross the street and use his lot as a bathroom.

“I would like to fix the front of my building up. I would like to clean the lot up. I would like to make it look better. But look at the back of my building: there’s feces all over the wall. Why would I spend $10,000 cleaning up the front?

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“That’s just the frustration we’re having.”

Read more: Edmonton homeless encampments being removed

Customers used to go to the café nearby while waiting for their vehicles, Skolarchuk said. Now, they’re too scared.

“It’s getting out of hand. Every year it’s the same thing… I think it’s going on four years. Nothing is changing.”

He’d like to see the city step up.

“Earlier in the spring, the city was doing a good job of sort of keeping it down. But it seems like the last couple weeks they’ve sort of let it go. We haven’t seen any sort of presence at all. And it’s growing.”

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Province reacts to Edmonton homeless camps being taken down – Oct 31, 2019

Skolarchuk said he’d like to see the encampment gone entirely — at the very least, cleaned up.

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“I’d like to see the city manage it. Do something about it.

“If you’re going to let it happen, give them a bathroom facility so they don’t use my lot as a bathroom.”

However, he’s not holding out much hope.

“From my experience here it’s been a lot of talk over the years, and it’s all just been talk because nothing has changed.

“I really don’t have any hopes for anything the city’s going to do. Certainly would like to see it, but I’ll believe it when I see it.”

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