Edmonton plans for new approach to homeless encampments
EDMONTON -- The City of Edmonton is updating how it responds to encampments with a focus on providing housing and support to those in need while discouraging the continued presence of homeless camps.
"They will move to close down those camps in as short order as we possibly can," said Rob Smyth with the city.
The city's plan calls for staff to house individuals before a camp is taken down.
“Our shared priority is the safety of both people experiencing homelessness and the surrounding community,” said Smyth.
“Encampments are a symptom of a larger problem and the permanent solution to homelessness is safe, adequate and affordable housing with support.”
The city says situations around "highest risk encampments" will be escalated to a committee including the city manager and police chief to determine a response.
"There has to be that balance, we have to certainly protect our vulnerable, but we have that other element that is exploiting our vulnerable people, even within those camps," said Deputy Chief Kevin Brezinski with the Edmonton Police Service.
"We certainly have learned more effective ways of communicating with our folks that are vulnerable."
Coun. Scott McKeen said the response is strong but necessary.
"I gotta tell you, the number of legitimate serious concerns that were coming into my office from constituents who were scared spitless ... over confrontation, over people getting into their houses, over people accidentally starting propane fires near their homes, and kids being traumatized," said McKeen.
"This is a pragmatic response. It will be unpopular. It will create controversy."