The City of Edmonton has adopted a new strategy to manage and dismantle homeless camps that are about to pop up this year. The homeless park has been appearing in a local park for quite some time now, and the new strategy will include three levels of response. These levels include a housing-focused approach for low-risk camps and accelerated and large-scale responses for higher-risk camps.
Rob Smyth, deputy manager of citizen services, said that the city will take a more proactive approach than last year when 4,000 complaints related to homeless camps were reported.
“I think there were lessons last year, where we were slow to respond.”
Last year, hundreds of people moved into Camp Pekiwewin in Rossdale and Light Horse Park in Old Strathcona. Although those people were relocated to indoor shelters with ease, it took a lot of effort to remove these camps.
Smyth added that these camps are not safe:
“High-risk encampments can threaten the safety of individuals and the surrounding community and can in some situations include criminal activity and violence.”
Coun. Scott McKeen said that, although these camps need to be dismantled, the city still needs to show compassion for the homeless:
“I’m really happy to see this coordinated response. As long as we can deal with these folks in a respectful way and look after their needs as best we can, that will also help the business community and my constituents, who have been freaked out at times by this.”
By working together with Homeward Trust and social agencies, the city of Edmonton has opened new bridge housing and hotel rooms to help the homeless who were living in these camps.