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City to keep Central LRT open to the homeless
City staff decided Tuesday to keep Central LRT station open overnight for the next seven days to provide those without a home one more option to escape extreme temperatures.
Traditionally, LRT stations are considered poor shelters due to issues of sanitation and security. In the past, Edmonton has only opened train stops when homeless shelters reached 90 per cent capacity.
But agencies in Edmonton aren’t full yet. For example, Hope Mission had 100 empty beds Monday night.
The situation ignited a debate at City Hall on Tuesday over what warrants keeping an LRT station running, even when the trains stop.
“The opening of the LRT system is really a last resort. And the question is: what triggers that last resort?” Mayor Don Iveson asked Tuesday.
The last time Central Station was kept open, the city heard reports of violence and lack of access to bathrooms.
However, Ward 4 Councillor Aaron Paquette has supported opening the LRT.
“What's more important? Having to deal with those problems, or having to deal with cleaning up someone who died?” he asked.
Police believe weather was a factor in the death of man who was found outside the Commonwealth Stadium on the weekend.
Five days into the month, emergency responders have attended seven calls for cold exposure and taken one person to hospital.
“The goal is everyone lives, everyone thrives, everyone's safe and everyone survives,” Paquette told fellow councillors.
Despite council voting to develop an extreme weather policy that includes protocol for opening LRT stations, the mayor said it is action that fails to address the root problem.
“Our continuing commitment to ending homelessness and the work that's happening on the front lines to try to find housing for people and shelter people who are in distress is our first priority.”
Minimal staffing will be in place at Central Station for safety, and to direct people to shelters.
With files from Jeremy Thompson