4,000 complaints about homeless camps received by city so far this year

EDMONTON — Complaints about homeless camps are up significantly in Edmonton, despite chronic homelessness rates dropping by 15 per cent since 2018.

The city has received 4,000 complaints so far in 2019, up from 1,161 in 2018.

The news came at a police commission meeting on Thursday. Friday is National Housing Day.

Officials say the issue is complex. While there is space in shelters, they aren’t always equipped to handle the mental and physical needs of some of the patrons.

Another major issue stems from new development downtown over recent years.

“We’ve seen the closure of some pretty significant, very affordable, housing developments around downtown and in the Quarters over the last decade or so including most recently the closure of YMCA’s building here which was about 100 units of very affordable single residency occupancy-style housing,” said Christel Kjenner, Director of Housing and Homelessness for the City of Edmonton on Thursday. “As those types of properties are closed and redeveloped it’s just really reducing the places that people can go.”

Mayor Don Iveson says the solution is permanent supportive housing. He says the city has plans to build 600 units over the next five years, but the project needs $124 million from the province.

“We’ve got federal money lined up, we’ve got city money and sites lined up, we’re ready to go,” he told media on Friday afternoon.

The city is also looking at bridge housing to provide temporary solutions to help people transition while they wait for permanent homes.

A report on how to reduce the camps will be discussed at city hall in early December. 

With files from CTV News Edmonton’s Dan Grummett