Some residents move from Camp Pekiwewin to convention centre shelter, others planning to stay
EDMONTON -- Camp Pekiwewin was supposed to shut down Tuesday by the city’s order, but some residents say they’d rather spend the winter outside in Rossdale than at temporary accommodations that have been set up around Edmonton.
The city notice, delivered at 9 a.m., ordered campers to leave according to city bylaw and said the city would be doing an “extensive clean-up” of the parkland.
Resident Larry Gallagher asked, “Where am I gonna go?”
“I like it here. It’s home. It’s a community. I have friends here.”
The city’s affordable housing director told CTV News Edmonton the shelters that have been made available are the better option for Edmontonians in need of a place to sleep.
“This is not a safe space for long-term shelter, during the winter especially,” Christel Kjenner said.
“So it is our priority to resolve that encampment as soon as possible.”
But at least 20 campers and their sites remained set up later that day.
Those who were staying said they felt safer at the camp than the shelters.
Angel Littlewolf was one of several who said the camp offers a sense of community and independence that doesn’t exist at the shelters.
“I just like to chill in an environment that suits me,” she said.
“Socially, you can do things, you know?”
Gallagher added, “It’s not that cold. I was outside in March, February. This is like Miami.”
Support services stopped being offered at the camp Saturday.
For those who did want warmer accommodations, city buses were chartered on Tuesday to help individuals move to the Edmonton Convention Centre where they have access to those resources again.
That shelter is being operated by Boyle Street Community Services, The Mustard Seed, Bissell Centre, and the Bent Arrow Traditional Healing Society and has been full since opening.
It has space for 400 people during the day, and 300 overnight, but officials said physical distancing requirements will likely mean that’s the maximum the building will have room for.
Shelter options for Edmonton’s homeless also include a south-side warehouse run by The Mustard Seed and the Commonwealth Stadium operated by Hope Mission.
With files from CTV News Edmonton's Carlyle Fiset