Beginning December 18, while many are in the midst of holiday celebrations, the City of Edmonton will
begin a five-day campaign to destroy at least 135 structures at eight locations in the urban core.
“Hundreds of people already living in the most miserable circumstances we can imagine, in the midst
of winter weather, will have their belongs stolen and be displaced by this heartless action,” charges
Nadine Chalifoux, chair of the Edmonton Coalition on Housing and Homelessness (ECOHH).
The structures that will be destroyed are mostly tents or informal structures of scrap lumber,
cardboard, and tarps.
ECOHH spokesperson Jim Gurnett says, “This attack on some of the most vulnerable people in
Edmonton will create dangerous consequences. There will be more demands on already-overloaded
staff at community organizations serving the affected people. Personal identification will be lost and
need to be replaced. Bedding, clothing, and toiletries will be gone. So will vital medications and
medical equipment. Irreplaceable personal mementos will be gone. People already struggling to cope
with trauma will have new troubles. More unnecessary deaths are possible.”
In communications about the planned action, sites are described in terms of the number of structures
at each one but numbers of people are not mentioned. Some estimates suggest up to 300 people live
at the locations. City communications advise agencies that the action may lead to more demand on
them for services. Staff of organizations that support people living in these camps are asked to stay
away while the destruction is underway.
This attack happens at a time when Homeward Trust’s daily reports show the number of people who
are homeless is consistently in excess of 3100, with 1126 shelter spaces available. It is in a context of
recent statements by officials that people living in camping situations must be stopped, whether there
is any place for them to go or not.
“What makes this action even more abhorrent than the destruction of camps in the past is that when
one camp with 12 or 15 structures is destroyed, the people living there normally move on to another
nearby location and set up new places to live. But when eight of the main locations are all removed in
the period of a few days, there will be less opportunity to do this. It is further complicated by actions
over the past few months to fence off many of the locations that were used over time for camps, so
they are no longer available,’ Chalifoux explains.
“The City office that oversees this work is called the ‘Encampment Response Team.’ I would say the
encampment response of a City with heart would be to ensure people camping could do so in safe
and sanitary conditions, and that every effort would be made to find appropriate more-adequate
housing for them,” suggests Gurnett.
The Edmonton action comes at a time when some other municipalities are finding ways to ensure a
better life for people who are camping. Many say people living in such situations have legal rights for
government to ensure basic needs are met for people. According to work by The Shift
(www.maketheshift.org), “Government cannot remove residents from encampments without
meaningfully consulting them, without providing them with legal supports, and without providing
adequate housing alternatives.”
On December 18, as soon as known, ECOHH will share on social media the location of the first camp
to be removed and invite people to gather as witnesses to the action.
Nadine Chalifoux 780-716-5124 firstname.lastname@example.org
Jim Gurnett 780-218-6989 or email@example.com
Locations of camps to be removed:
Herb Jamieson Centre
95 Street & 101A Avenue
94 Street & 106 Avenue
95 Street & 105A Avenue (west of Bottle Depot)
The Edmonton Coalition Housing and Homelessness (ECOHH) was created in 1986.
Membership consists of social profit organizations and businesses, as well as individuals. Its mandate
includes education and advocacy on housing security, including homelessness and affordable
ECOHH led the development of the public art sculpture honouring the importance of housing,
located in Homeless Memorial Plaza, north of City Hall on 103A Avenue and has presented an annual
memorial service for people who have died because of housing challenges in their lives, since 2006.
ECOHH’s key messages are:
- Decent affordable housing is essential for all people.
- Good homes for all create strong healthy communities.
- Housing is more than four walls and a roof-- it's homes, support, and community.
- Lack of decent affordable housing has negative consequences for everyone.
- In Alberta we have the resources, knowledge, and skills to make sure everyone has a decent place
to call home in a strong healthy community
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