The City of Edmonton introduced a new plan for managing homeless encampments on Wednesday.
According to a news release from the city, the strategy took key lessons learned in 2020 and includes three types of responses.
The focus is to more quickly connect people with social and housing resources, remove encampments within two weeks and not allow large, more permanent ones to establish.
The Encampment Response Team will continue its work responding to encampments ruled low risk based on the severity of risk — like size, location and proximity to schools and parks.
If, after an investigation, an encampment is determined to be high risk, it will be elevated to the accelerated response process for closure led by peace officers and the Edmonton Police Service. Those living at the site will be offered information on shelter and transportation options before the site is closed, the new release said.
Any encampment deemed to be the highest risk will be further escalated to a committee of administrative executives. That committee is co-chaired by the city manager and EPS chief who will determine the response.
According to the city, the goal of the strategy is to connect people to housing and support, while discouraging the establishment of large encampments that have “negative health and safety impacts on encampment occupants and the surrounding community.”
While encampments have always been present in areas like the river valley, they were thrust into the spotlight last year with the creation of two larger camps in public parks.
Camp Pekiwewin was located in the Rossdale neighhourhood across the street from RE/MAX Field while another one was set up in Wilbert Mcintyre Park in Old Strathcona.
The Old Strathcona camp — which moved to Light Horse Park after being told to vacate the park — was closed Nov. 5 by city police and peace officers.
Camp Pekiwewin was dismantled Nov. 12 when city officials and police moved in.
Transportation to city shelters was provided when both camps were taken down.
On Oct. 30, the city opened a temporary shelter at the Edmonton Convention Centre in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. In March, city council voted the shelter will remain open until April 30.
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