Municipal and provincial leaders reduce homeless visibility

Municipal and provincial leaders reduce homeless visibility

Aggressive encampment removals and a triage centre to connect evicted campers with supports may decrease visible homelessness for now, but much work remains to deal with the problem that prompted Edmonton's city council to declare a housing and houselessness emergency.

The declaration was followed by motions to meet with other levels of government and create a task force, seeded by $3.5 million from the city. But the hosts of Taproot's civic affairs podcast had hoped for more creativity than they saw from provincial and municipal leaders on this file.

"We know that … the more root-cause solution is for all of those folks to have a home," co-host Male Male told Episode 247 of Speaking Municipally. "And if we can't do that, what can we do in the meantime to both ensure they're safe and meet people where they are and … not take away the only sort of possessions or dignity they might have?"

As Taproot reported, disagreements remain on whether there is indeed enough shelter space for all those who need it and whether that space is preferable to living outside, even in the coldest conditions. Now that the lawsuit seeking a permanent injunction on encampment clearings has been dismissed, Chief Dale McFee is intent on removing them, notwithstanding criticism voiced to the Edmonton Police Commission.

Others might be satisfied, however, to have fewer encampments in their line of sight, said podcast co-host Troy Pavlek.

"For the average citizen of Edmonton, that might be a big checkmark. That might be mission accomplished," Pavlek said. "We're sweeping the issue under the rug, but if we have a broad base of support for sweeping it under the rug, the provincial funding might be to buy more rugs."

Hear much more about the politics of council's declaration as well as new appointments to the Edmonton Police Commission and more on the Jan. 19 episode of Speaking Municipally.

Photo: Edmonton's city council recently declared a housing and homelessness emergency. (Mack Male/Flickr)