City considers small-scale encampments after earlier rejection

City considers small-scale encampments after earlier rejection

· The Pulse

On Episode 184 of Speaking Municipally, Troy Pavlek and Mack Male take a look at the city's possible change of heart on letting houseless people live in encampments.

When the idea first came to council in April, administration advised against sanctioning encampments, warning of problems with safety, sanitation, and conflicts with neighbours. In May, council approved a funding increase of $860,000 for its encampment response, on top of the $2.7 million budget, to deal with the expected surge in people living outside.

Coun. Anne Stevenson of Ward O-day'min then brought forward a motion asking administration to look into a pilot for one or more small-scale encampments, which council approved 11-2 on June 20.

"Her argument here is that the current response really just leads to the cycle where encampments start up, the city goes and moves them or takes them down, and then they come back," Male said on the podcast. "This idea of sanctioning them is not to allow them to be permanent, not to allow them to grow exceptionally large, but to help mitigate this Whack-a-Mole system that we currently treat encampments with."

During the 2021 election campaign, Taproot asked candidates how the city should address encampments, based on the policy at the time to slowly dismantle encampments deemed to be low-risk by connecting inhabitants with services and to more quickly dismantle those deemed to be high-risk. Here's how the winning candidates answered:

  • "The current policy towards encampments is acceptable." — Amarjeet Sohi, Aaron Paquette, Andrew Knack, Tim Cartmell, Sarah Hamilton, Jo-Anne Wright
  • "Encampments should be allowed if there are no better housing options available." — Keren Tang, Ashley Salvador, Michael Janz
  • "Encampments should be dismantled immediately." — Jennifer Rice
  • No position or did not answer — Erin Rutherford, Karen Principe, Anne Stevenson

Speaking Municipally also looked at new information on affordable housing, "the most important tool in the toolkit for dealing with homelessness," as Pavlek put it. The good news is that the city is on track to exceed its affordable housing targets. The bad news is that without continued investment and renewal of operator agreements, Edmonton is at risk of losing many of its 14,837 existing units.

They also talked about a proposal from Janz to introduce a "mansion tax", the long-awaited and still-not-here opening of the Valley Line Southeast LRT, and the outcome of several issues related to the police: following up on the community safety plan presented to the province, figuring out funding for the Healthy Streets Operations Centre in Chinatown, and filling the Edmonton Police Commission's empty seats. Hear it all on the June 24 episode.