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Dangers for people living rough greater than ever

Edmonton Coalition on Housing and Homelessness

200, 12120-106 Avenue Edmonton Alberta T5N 0Z2

2024 January 19

The Edmonton Coalition on Housing and Homelessness (ECOHH) is calling on Edmontonians to be closely watching how people living in camp settings are treated over the weeks ahead.

“Within hours of a declaration of war on some of the poorest people in the city, on a frigid day, large crews of law enforcement and clean up personnel descended on two large campsites with more vigour than usual and destroyed the shelters, leaving people living there to move on,” explains ECOHH chair Nadine Chalifoux.

“It is important for people to continue to monitor what is happening and show up to let authorities know their actions will be witnessed and shared,” Chalifoux says.

The large tear-downs of camps took place less than a day after a news conference with the Edmonton chief of police and Alberta government ministers announcing a new major campaign to end camping and less than 48 hours after Edmonton City Council approved a motion declaring a housing and homelessness emergency in the city. Other recent actions have included a court decision to end consideration of legal action to prevent camp demolitions and a series of eight destructions of

prominent campsites over the preceding three weeks.

“The danger to health and lives is increased by this new assault on campers. We have seen millions of dollars spent on these actions over the past years with no positive results. The new program announced duplicates services already available with skilled and experienced staff at existing organizations where people who are homeless are known and have connections,” Chalifoux notes.

ECOHH says the evidence about what does work, from other municipalities and locally, is to provide safe and sanitary options for temporary living to replace informal settlements, and to invest in affordable housing, especially supportive housing with needed services.

“No one wants to be living in the difficult conditions of an informal shelter on the street. But the stress and trauma being inflicted on people who are living in camps adds to the challenges of poverty and mental and physical health challenges they are dealing with already. Reassuring words by authorities driving this misguided approach to the homelessness catastrophe mask the awful reality of what is happening to our sisters and brothers,” Chalifoux says.

ECOHH notes the misrepresentation of things includes use of the “high risk” label to justify any camp demolition, deliberate murkiness about the actual number and type of shelter spaces available, and the frequent charge of camps being centres of criminal activity.

ECOHH asks people seeing a camp location being removed to email and to post messages and photos on

social media.

PDF copy below.

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