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Non-profit proposes sanctioned encampment on Coliseum parking lot

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A local non-profit is hoping to turn an Edmonton parking lot into a safe living space for people experiencing homelessness.

Green Violin, a community development organization, wants the city to let them build a two-year protected encampment site on a three-acre lot near the Coliseum LRT station.

The company is currently in the process of buying the land, with the end goal to build affordable student housing for three Edmonton post-secondaries.

Green Violin's CEO said he'd like to see something positive happen with the land in the three years it would take to break ground.

"Our plan is to have two winter's worth of encampment here, giving the city time to come up with a more concrete solution to those living on the street," Yasushi Ohki said.

"This gives them a chance to catch their breath, to get sorted out and move on to the next level of services."

The site would have space for between 240 and 400 people. The fenced-in camp would also have security on site and four temporary buildings for various community services.

Two buildings would handle physical necessities like food, showers, clothing, medical assistance and haircuts.

Another building would be community focused, with cultural space for Indigenous residents and representatives from local First Nations.

"That's where people can reconnect with their nation," Yasushi said. "[There's] community space to perform ceremony, we'll have sacred fire.

"And this is all led by our Indigenous partners on this project."

The fourth building would offer employment and education aimed at helping residents transition out of homelessness.

"We're talking about ways of dealing with landlords, how to find housing, how do you get medication once you're back out of the encampment site. And employment – that's the big one," Yasushi added.

Green Violin said it's been having conversations with city officials, but did not offer specifics.

Several Edmonton city councilors were asked about the proposal Friday, but none were available or able to comment.

Edmonton MLA and federal minister Randy Boissonnault said he had not read the proposal, but he supports the premise.

"If this particular proposal solves a need, and can be safe and make sure that it's a transition that has the involvement of all the right people, including AHS, then I am all on board," Boissonnault said.

"Every Canadian, every Albertan, every Edmontonian deserves a place to call home and we're going to have to be creative in the ways that we get to that human right," he continued.

Green Violin is currently applying for grants and looking for funding for the project.

It did not say what kinds of permits it would need from the city to go ahead with its proposal.

With files from CTV News Edmonton's Nav Sangha

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