4th high-risk encampment dismantled in central Edmonton

The fourth of eight high-risk encampments in central Edmonton was dismantled. Laura Krause speaks to a resident who isn’t sure where they will go.

The encampment near the Bissell Centre — at 105A Avenue and 96 Street — was dismantled Wednesday morning.

Police were on scene as city workers in protective gear sifted through what was left behind by uprooted residents before it was hauled away by dump trucks.

While this was going on, encampment residents were seen piling their belongings into shopping carts and wagons and wheeling them away.

“I just got a few things in the one cart, I got my family around here, and that’s about it. Just trying to not get on anyone’s bad side,” said camp resident Joshua Calliou.

Calliou isn’t sure where he’ll go, temporarily rebuilding camp with other uprooted residents just across the street. Where he won’t go is to shelters provided by the city or other organizations.

“I don’t like big spots like that (shelters). Too many people. I go there once in a while but I don’t feel comfortable there, too many vibes and it stresses me out,” he explained.

It’s the fourth of eight high-risk encampments dismantled in Edmonton. All eight camps deemed high-risk were slated to be removed before Christmas, but that plan was put on hold once a front-line agency caught wind of the plan, and requested for an emergency injunction, trying to bring it to a stop.

Ultimately, this delayed the removals until certain conditions were met. Those conditions include providing 48-hour notice to occupants, and ensuring there is sufficient shelter space available. 

The Coalition for Justice and Human Rights launched a lawsuit against the city over its policy of removing homeless camps earlier this year. They will return to court next week, where an earlier injunction application will be heard.

“It’s not fair, it’s not right considering there’s not enough spaces for everyone to go. They constantly say there is enough shelter space, but the math doesn’t add up,” said Rachelle Gladue, co-founder of the Tawa Outreach Collective.

“I’ve worked two seasons in emergency shelters for two winters, and after working there, I can see absolutely why people don’t want to go into the shelters. They are not sanitary, they are not safe for a lot of people. I don’t think any right now allows pets. I mean, we see someone here right now with a dog, and that could be someone’s whole world.”

The province says there are more than 1,400 shelter spaces available in Edmonton, however, Homeward Trust is reporting 1,142 shelter spaces, with 986 of those spaces occupied. as of Jan 1.

“The fact that our city constantly defunds social services, and uses that money to fund encampment sweeps and fund police,” said Gladue. “We’ve heard it from (Edmonton police Chief Dale) McFee several times that they are not social workers, they can’t solve the homelessness issue, and they can’t help encampments.

“So why not use that money to better fund outreach groups and social services, drop-ins. Even temporary measures like shelters. Ultimately it does come down to the need for supportive housing and wraparound services.”

Homeward Trust is reporting there were 3,043 people in Edmonton experiencing homelessness as of Dec. 16. They say 670 are unsheltered, 534 are in overnight shelters, and the remaining number are provisionally accommodated or their accommodations are unknown.

The City of Edmonton said there were 12 people living within 14 structures in the encampment.

Previously, there was only one call for medical assistance, no arrests, no tickets issued, and no warrants executed.

During Wednesday’s cleanup, there were six truckloads (1,200 kg) of waste removed, 330 needles, 17 shopping carts, and 36 propane tanks.

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