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Sanctioned homeless camps can't happen this summer, Edmonton city officials say

Edmonton city council spent Tuesday listening to suggestions for how to deal with homeless encampments that spring up each summer, including a push for a sanctioned camp.

It's been three years since a large camp took over a field in Rossdale for the summer.

Jerry McFeeters was one of the roughly 600 people who spent time living in Camp Pekiwewin.

"The camp absolutely gave me a chance to look at my issues and allow me to do it without somebody telling me that, 'look at you,' looking down on me," The Indigenous Elder said.

McFeeters left the camp when he felt it was getting too large and unsafe, but he credits the Indigenous-centered environment with granting him the spiritual clarity and self-reflection that got him off alcohol and into a home.

He is now part of a community-based research team advocating for a smaller, more structured version of the camp.

McFeeters believes it could be a place for people to stabilize when they’re ready to get help.

Coun. Aaron Paquette supports the idea.

"I think what we will end up seeing is less and less people in encampments, and more and more people trusting a system," he said.

"Because right now a lot of folks don’t trust our institutions because it’s our institutions frankly, that broke them in the first place."

City staff are fine-tuning their “encampment response strategy” ahead of the summer.

Edmonton intends to stick to its approach of dismantling encampments before they get too large.

"Predation is a problem," explained Jennifer Flaman with the City of Edmonton.

"We know when we concentrate vulnerable folks, we know we are creating a magnet and a target for gangs, disorder, criminality, physical and sexual assault. Even when we had 24/7 peace officer and police officer coverage."

In order to test out a sanctioned transitional camp for about 30 people, city council would need to approve a budget and go through a litany of legal and liability checks, something city staff say can’t happen in time for this summer. Top Stories

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