Lethbridge city council approves encampment strategy

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Lethbridge city council approves encampment strategy
WATCH: Lethbridge city council approves encampment strategy – May 16, 2023

After homeless encampments surged in size last summer, the City of Lethbridge, Alta., has a new plan it’s hoping will proactively address the issue.

“Getting out there, engaging with individuals before it becomes 3, 4, 5 tents and becomes entrenched,” said city general manager of community social development Andrew Malcolm.

City council approved the encampment strategy on Tuesday.

Click to play video: 'Committee hears update on encampment strategy'
Committee hears update on encampment strategy

Developed in partnership with the Lethbridge Police Service, it includes a three-tiered response the city calls an outreach-focused approach.

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The first tier is for inactive sites needing cleanup. The second manages small, active sites where no immediate health or safety risks are present with an initial outreach-led, housing-focused response.

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Sites with three or more structures or declared high-risk will be considered tier three and prioritized for enforcement-led closure.

“Hopefully when we have these different organizations all working collaboratively, we’ll have results,” said Mayor Blaine Hyggen.

“Can I guarantee anything? I wish I could, but I can’t. But we have to try something.”

According to LPS Sgt. Ryan Darroch, six encampments have already been cleaned up in 2023.

Click to play video: 'Man released from hospital after shooting in Lethbridge encampment: police'
Man released from hospital after shooting in Lethbridge encampment: police

An officer with the Downtown Policing Unit, Darroch believes the coordinated response will benefit encampment residents.

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“Some people do want help and that’s a great chance to provide them with services,” he said.

The program is getting $750,000 in 2023, then $500,000 each of the next three years.

That funding includes a housing solutions coordinator job, which Malcolm says will help get more spaces for people in need.

“Working to break down the barriers that we have in the city that challenges or creates problems for the actual creation of new units, whether those are units or new beds in an emergency shelter or transitional home,” Malcolm said.

Those helping the homeless population in Lethbridge are glad to see the encampment strategy in place.

“It’s coordinated and it has a definite line of command,” said Ken Kissick, the co-founder of Streets Alive Mission. “Everybody that’s out there working kind of shows what’s supposed to  happen.”

The program is now in effect, but the city is still trying to fill some positions.

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