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'Heartbreaking': City and police begin closure of 8 'high-risk' encampments in Edmonton


Nineteen people were displaced Saturday morning after police and city crews dismantled an encampment near the Herb Jamieson Centre.

It was the second of eight encampments scheduled to be removed from Edmonton streets by Jan. 3.

On Friday morning, the first camp was cleared at 95 Street and 105 Avenue. Eight structures and a motorhome were removed, and five people were relocated. 

The Edmonton Coalition on Housing and Homelessness had filed an injunction earlier this month to stop the closures.

On Dec. 18, a judge ruled the encampments could be closed provided a number of conditions were followed, including notifying the residents about the closures.

"It's heartbreaking," ECOHH spokesperson Jim Gurnett said on Friday as workers dismantled the camp.

"It's a source of immense anger to me to be a person living in a city that believes we can treat some of our weakest and most vulnerable community members the way we're treating them when we move in and just rip down their shelters and send them out to wander the streets."

Gurnett says officials have allowed the problem of homelessness to get worse for decades.

"For 30 years, we've allowed the development of homelessness by failing to build the housing that people without very much money need," he said.

"And now we have thousands of people who are completely homeless. Then the anger is further built on the fact that with those people who are homeless, we do virtually nothing to ensure that they can have safe, healthy lives."

A spokesperson for the Edmonton Police Service said EPS would not be speaking about the encampment closure on Friday, but on Thursday, police released a statement saying EPS and the city had ensured the conditions of the injunctions had been met.

Residents at the camp at 95 Street and 105 Avenue were given 48-hours notice to collect as many of their belongings as possible and leave.

Gurnett said while most of the residents of the encampment left over, about 25 people were still on hand when the closure began.

People in white hazmat suits could be seen putting whatever was left at the site into a garbage truck on Friday morning.

"You work hard just to get ahead and just to throw it all away just doesn't seem right," encampment resident Frank told CTV News Edmonton.

The 52-year-old says he has lived at the encampment for the last four months.

He says he doesn't plan to go to a shelter, even though the camp has been closed, because it would mean being separated from his spouse.

ECHH says a closure will happen at Dawson Park on Jan. 2, and a camp near the Bissell Centre will be closed on Jan. 3.

The City of Edmonton said encampments are classified as high-risk when there are risks present including serious injury or death due to fire, drug use, gang violence or criminal activity. 

In a statement on Thursday, the city said the closure of the remaining four high-risk encampments would only happen after Jan. 3 after "evaluation and impact assessment with partners."

With files from CTV News Edmonton's Nav Sangha Top Stories

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