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No notice given to clear 8 high-risk encampments, but closure of other camps continues: advocates


The city, police and social agencies discussed encampments during an emergency meeting organized by the mayor Wednesday night.

A spokesperson for Amarjeet Sohi says the group discussed changes to planning, the communication process and coordination for encampment responses.

On Monday, an agreement was reached in court to close eight "high-risk" encampments if a number of conditions are met, including notifying residents two days before a camp is closed and explaining why it is being cleared.

Social agencies also need to be notified, and CTV News Edmonton has confirmed with local agencies that hasn't happened yet.

Despite that, housing advocates say city crews are still clearing other lower-risk camps.

"I don't know if the public understands the injunction is only for the eight that were identified last week. But the process of taking camps down is continuous," said housing advocate Jim Gurnett.

"When their shelters are torn down, they lose their bedding, they lose all their clothing, their toiletries to stay clean. And so they're always needing new things, because they're always having the stuff stolen from them."

Jim Gurnett hands out warm clothing to members of Edmonton's homeless community on Dec. 21, 2023. (Evan Klippenstein/CTV News Edmonton)

Gurnett calls the way Edmonton clears encampments "shameful" and is calling for the city to follow Halifax by creating small, sanctioned camps where fire and crime risk can be better managed.

Sohi says he’s open to the concept, though there has been rising concern in Halifax in recent days about safety around those sanctioned camps.

CTV News Atlantic has reported a rise in crime around one of the camps.

Sohi says everyone who attended Wednesday's emergency meeting agrees encampments are not a safe way for people to live.

The meeting was a chance to refocus and move forward together.

"Talk about where the gaps are and how we can improve coordination and how we can improve communication and really get to not only the root causes, but also what we need to do immediately to help people," Sohi said Thursday.

One issue that was discussed was the inclusion of social agencies in camp closures.

Currently, outreach workers are helping with encampments deemed low or medium-risk.

They’re not included when crews dismantle a high-risk camp.

Sohi believes that has to change.

"When it comes to high-risk encampments, the social sector is not involved to the level that you would want them to be involved," he said.

Gurnett says one major group was missing from the meeting.

"Who is missing at that table? The most obvious group that should be there. The people that live in campsites themselves."

"All these decisions are being made without them even having a voice to talk about their lives, and the pain and the trauma that is created." Top Stories

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