The City of Edmonton unveiled its strategy for dealing with homeless encampments on Thursday. It includes 60 person team made up of outreach and housing workers from social agencies, park rangers, and a dedicated police and cleanup crew.
“We want to connect as many people as possible with social services and housing, but there’s also lack of social services, support system, and obviously lack of housing,” Edmonton Mayor Amarjeet Sohi said.
The city has also approved $860,000 to target known encampment hotspots.
Dawson Park is one of the areas in question. Fire crews were called to the area on Tuesday evening to respond to a fire at a homeless encampment, one of dozens of camps in the area.
“It was probably somewhere between a $5,000 and $6,000 visit yesterday for the number of emergency vehicles that responded,” said Carol McDonald, who lives nearby.
The city plans to hire park rangers to monitor those hotspots, especially on evenings and weekends but neighbours are skeptical.
“We’ve seen them put increased ranger presence out here in the past, and all it is, is a guy sitting in a truck in the Dawson Park parking lot who doesn’t even get out of his truck,” said Jennifer Pede, another resident in the area.
Some members of council are also concerned the strategy doesn’t go far enough.
“I don’t think that this is a fully adequate response, we’re certainly not addressing the underlying housing needs that exist that are leading to encampments,” said Coun. Anne Stevenson.
“This is a very difficult file, there are no easy solutions to this,” Sohi said.
With files from CTV News Edmonton’s Jeremy Thompson.
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