Lethbridge encampments persist: ‘It’s like a campground’

Click to play video: 'Lethbridge encampments persist: ‘It’s like a campground’'
Lethbridge encampments persist: ‘It’s like a campground’
There is growing pressure on the city to deal with homeless encampments. The so-called “tent cities” continue to be visible in parts of Lethbridge, including the downtown. As Erik Bay reports, some neighbouring the encampments believe the city should be doing more to address them. – Jul 5, 2022

A handful of tents stand scattered along the edge of Lethbridge’s Civic Centre Park.

The Lethbridge Senior Citizens Organization (LSCO) building is on the north side of the homeless encampment and this year is the largest gathering executive director Rob Miyashiro has ever seen in that area.

“When it warmed up, beginning of the spring we saw some tents coming up and it just started to build from there as the weather got nicer,” Miyashiro said. “Literally, it’s like a campground.”

It’s not the only encampment in the city. Another one is located outside the Lethbridge Shelter and Resource Centre.

On June 1, the city partnered with other organizations to conduct a “compassionate takedown” of that encampment, but as of Tuesday tents are visible in the area.

Click to play video: 'Tent encampment grows near Lethbridge shelter'
Tent encampment grows near Lethbridge shelter

Despite the noticeable presence outside the LSCO, Miyashiro isn’t hearing the same concerns as in past years.

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“We see less people hanging around the front. I know I haven’t had the complaints of people hanging around the parking lot that we had before,” Miyashiro said. “The people that are camping seem to be sticking to themselves.”

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But he believes it’s a problem that requires action.

“Supportive housing is one thing,” Miyashiro said. “Not just supportive housing, but if we’re going to do a rapid rehousing of people, where are we going to put them? There’s nowhere to put them.”

According to the city, there were 135 encampments in Lethbridge in 2021, a more than 50 per cent increase over the previous year.

On Tuesday, council put forward a resolution that would direct administration to report on the current process of dismantling encampments and also provide a strategy on advocacy recommendation to the province on affordable housing.

“Options, regulations and resources are needed to effectively remove these environments and a relocation strategy must be developed that will accommodate temporary housing on city-owned land where these encampments can be better managed,” councillor John Middleton-Hope said.

“We need to step up our game because people are suffering,” said councillor Jeff Carlson. “They don’t have a home. They need a place, they need safety and shelter.”

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The resolution passed unanimously and will also see administration look into options for bylaw changes to help address the issue.

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