Letter to Council and Mayor
Edmonton Coalition on Housing and Homelessness
200, 12120-106 Avenue Edmonton Alberta T5N 0Z2
2024 February 09
Dear members of Edmonton City Council:
Re: Agenda items 3.3 & 3.4, City Council meeting February 12
The Edmonton Coalition on Housing and Homelessness was encouraged at the recent decision of
City Council to declare an emergency in relation to housing and homelessness in the city.
However we have a deep concern about what is actually happening on the street. Many of the people
who are members or connected with ECOHH and who work in the community are expressing deep
worry about the effect of the greatly amplified actions to remove informal shelters in the past two
weeks, which displaces the people living there.
We are troubled that the City is delivering a message of concern by declaring an emergency, but at the
same time seems to be exacerbating the reasons there is an emergency by not changing the current
actions to eliminate camping. The evidence we see makes the City part of the problem and urge you
to instead be part of the solution.
There is a danger that the strong message of the emergency motion highlighting the critical need to
deliver more appropriate and affordable housing and to offer more diversity and security with
emergency shelter will be seen as insincere, lacking intention to actually make it possible for people to
have healthier lives. Since the declaration of an emergency there has been silence with regard to
actions, resources, or even information updates. What has been done to engage people actually
affected by the current catastrophe in developing solutions they feel are useful?
In the past many of the informal shelters have been fairly adequate to deal with weather conditions
such as cold and wet, but it takes time for a person with little or no money to create such a shelter,
slowly accumulating materials. With the huge increase in speed and frequency of removal of these
shelters now in motion most of the people living this way have almost nothing left. They are living in
the cold weather with little more than a tarp for shelter, where they previously had bedding and tents
and insulation materials. The dangers to physical and mental health from what is happening now are
significant. The increase in stress on people who have already experienced significant trauma is
noticeable. Deteriorating mental health will manifest in more physical health problems; potential
misuse of substances to provide relief; and public expressions of anger, frustration, and
discouragement. This will in turn reinforce misconceptions about the people living in this way.
We urge you to do whatever you can to stop the relentless removal of shelters. There are many
locations where this is happening more than weekly now, the same location, the same people. We
urge you to address the physical and service conditions of institutional shelters to ensure they
are more able to provide a viable option for people who do not have housing.
Even if it is not possible to change this aggressive approach to removing shelters, we recommend the
City provide better information about what is happening. This might include:
- a daily bulletin that identified locations where shelters were going to be removed that day,
- an accurate number of shelter spaces available each day,
- more accurate numbers for how many people are actually displaced when a camp is torn down,
since those provided in the bulletins issued by the City in connection with the eight highly-publicized
camps were not remotely accurate,
- how much it is costing to do all the things currently happening to take down camps, fence areas,
operate the navigation centre, etc. (to say nothing of increased costs for emergency health care and
other secondary results of current activity);
- clarity about how many people who visit the new navigation and referral centre operated by the
province actually begin to stay in shelters or receive housing, rather than just being processed for
such a possible result. The province provides only numbers of services offered, but these are
meaningless without outcomes information.
As long as official information being provided by the province is crafted to claim there is improvement,
it is difficult for the more subjective assessment of those connected with ECOHH and engaged with
people on the street, which suggests a worsening situation not an improving one, to be noticed.
What is happening in relation to campers and temporary shelter facilities is a violation of what has
been agreed internationally about the human right of every person to adequate housing. This should
deeply concern the city’s elected leaders.
Over many years ECOHH has provided City Councils several times with information and
recommendations about options that would be safer and healthier than the current informal camping
that takes place for those who will not use shelters. There are many active examples in other
municipalities of such facilities. But Edmonton continues to show little or no interest in this possibility.
The Shift has developed a practical manual for municipalities on how to address the issue of camping
in a positive way (https://make-the-shift.org/resources/) that we urge each member of City Council to
Thank you for your concern about the people affected by the chronic homelessness that has become
too established in our city. We look forward to hearing if any of our requests might see action.
We attach for additional information a leaflet we have developed to address misconceptions about
campers and shelters, as well as an opinion article written for the Edmonton Journal.
Nadine Chalifoux, Chair
The Edmonton Journal Op-Ed "Shock and Awe"