Alberta opens $13-million support centre as police remove encampments | Power & Politics

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The Alberta Government has opened a support center in Edmonton for people removed from homeless encampments the announcement comes as the city’s public Police Service excuse me says it plans to take down encampments at an accelerated Pace just last week police dismantled eight homeless encampments they deemed high risk all this as the

City of Edmonton declares a housing and homelessness emergency the increase in the vulnerability of lowincome and middle income andonian do not have a decent place to call that will lead them to U uh possibly lead them to uh into into hust lessness uh 47,000 households uh that number will grow by another 10,000

Uh households if we don’t get a handle on this uh people that living in court housing housing need that is why it is an emergency Alberta seniors community and Social Services Minister Jason Nixon joins me now Minister Nixon welcome to the show thanks for having me on this Center you’ve opened in at

What are you hoping this does for the people who were removed from the encampments we want to make sure that we provide very quick efficient access to the entire power of the Social Services System here in the city of Emon the province of Alberta as the Emon Police

Service does their work in encampments and so this provides us the ability to be able to bring all that together that’s including you know services within my Department of Social Services as well as the Department of Health our Alberta Health Services mental health and addictions and the tremendous

Nonprofit social services sector here in the city of Emon all into one location to give individuals as they come out of these very dangerous encampments complete access to to the system and to resources uh that can help them both in an emergency shelter capacity but also hopefully to long-term solutions for why

They are homeless or the circumstances that each individual may find themselves in walk me through some of the choices in in you made in setting this up this is temporary as I understand it it closes at 4:30 every day and it it only came after the city of Edmonton declared

A homelessness uh emergency so so walk me through the the the the timeline and the setup here one clarification this process was being undertaken long before the city of Emon declared a state of emergency we started to work on it in November we are waiting for the results

Of the court case in regards to encampments here in the province of Alberta so we knew what the emited Police Service would be doing uh but we will have the triage Center open uh it does as far as access to outside services that ends at 4:30 each day as

Far as being able to connect to services but it also has a 30 bed shelter within that Loc so anybody coming in from encampments as they are closed down will stay there they won’t have to leave they’ll have access to showers food and a place uh to sleep and then obviously

In the morning we’ll again we will continue with connecting them to other services we will have uh buses at locations as the EM Police Service takes down encampments with officials from my department the ability to be able to take people’s personal belongings with them on the bus including pets uh they

Will then be brought to that uh that navigation Center as we call it where they will immediately have access to showers food safety Healthcare if needed uh and then we’ll go through a process uh to be able to go to different stations as I said for whether it be

Health issues addiction issues or housing issues and other issues like that to be able to immediately get access to help your your colleague uh Public Safety Minister Mike Ellis has referred I I believe some of these encampments as gang run was was the language that he use I mean how do you

Deal with something like that uh in terms of getting people what does he mean by that and how do you deal with something like that in terms of finding people a place somewhere in the Social Services System so what what we’ve seen back from the Emon Police Service is

That a lot of gangs have taken over the operation of the encampments inside the city of Emon they are putting up their tags and their markings and making clear that it’s their territory we’re hearing stories of being charged even to access these tents or to other resources that

Are within these these encampments uh the other thing when the police are going into the encampments they’re seeing a tremendous amount of uh weapons uh they’ve also ran into individuals who are being sexually trafficked uh in circumstances like that and that’s what Minister Ellis is referring to now my

Department the Department of Social Services can’t handle that that’s that’s a Law Enforcement issue so emit Police Services going in and handling that uh dismantling the encampments and what’s happening is my team is then coming in to provide services to the individuals that are in these encampments that are

Often being victimized by uh uh gangs and other individuals as well on the street you can see the safety concerns with the encampment but you’ve also heard from people like the Edmonton Coalition on housing and homelessness that argue as well that the shelter system isn’t that safe and and that

People have said theyve described it as frightening and dangerous and this is why they don’t want to go into the shelters so how do you deal with that challenge Minister well a couple things I will say the Coalition of homelessness there was just a court court of Kings

Bench judge who made clear that he did not even think they were advocating for any of the individuals or encampments on the streets but that said uh I would say two things one is uh that certainly what we are seeing inside encampments which is including people even burning to

Death inside their tents because of unsafe heat sources uh people being raped and other violent crimes is certainly not what is taking place inside our shelter system so if anybody is advocating that those type of encampments are safer than our emergency shelter system they’re wrong uh and I

Want to make clear to all of the homeless population there is a safe warm place for them to be we have heard things and requests and advice from those who live on the streets on ways that we can change our shelter system to operate different to be more effective

And we’ve done that here in the province of Alberta uh we moved all of our shelters to 24 hours a day 7 days a week we’ve made accommodations for things like pets made sure that we’ve required proper storage for every body’s uh property as they come into these

Shelters we’ve invested in Security in our shelter system uh and we’ve also really focused on opening up specialized shelters including indigenous run shelters and women only shelters here in the city of amonton we just opened up two new indigenous shelters that are run by nearby Nations uh and funded by the

Provincial government but run by those Nations and that’s something that we heard loud and clear about the need for culturally appropriate Shelter Systems to help with the First Nation population here in the city of amonton but Minister criticisms of the safety of Shel Shelter Systems it’s not unique to Edmonton it’s

Not unique to Alberta we’ve heard this in every jurisdiction because you know it’s it’s Mass housing of transient populations in congregate settings which comes with a level of risk so so given that that’s there and people are concerned about it I mean what if people refuse to go to the temporary navigation

And support center or don’t want to go into a shelter how do you deal with it uh at the end of the day we’re not going to force anybody to go into our shelter system they’re not going to be able to continue to stay in these encampments

The city of Emon the Emon Police Service have made that clear and so job is to provide the best access that we can to that system for those who need it and want it we’ve also added Outreach teams including indigenous Outreach teams to try to help bridge some of those gaps

About concerns with shelters to also inform the street population about the significant changes that have happened here uh in the Alberta system going forward but when it comes to encampments versus emergency shelter there’s just no comparison on the safety level I mean we are seeing people burn to death in our

Encampments uh and that’s not happening in our shelter system so while we can continue to focus on security and trying to make our shelter system better and we will uh I think what is really clear in this message is that we certainly have a safer emergency shelter system than

These encampments I also want to stress we’ve invested millions of dollars in security around our shelter providers uh to try to be able to make them a safest possible environment you’re right whenever you’re dealing with large populations like this crime will follow uh but we’re very confident that we’ve

Put in the tools to be be able to make our shelters as safe as possible you push back against ammer jet SOI the Mayor of Edmonton uh with Declaration of a homelessness emergency at Emon you called it bizarre and really kind of dismiss it as a political stunt but when

You lay out all of the factors the these encampments being taken down by police the gang infiltration as you describe it the sort of criminal activity happening there and the sheer number of people and number of camps H how is that not an emergency and does that political issue

Now get in the way of you and the mayor working working together on things well the mayor and I worked together very well he was he was just over at the Albert legislature with me a few days ago with all of my department several other Ministries and all of emitent city

Council where we were uh briefing each other on the issues that we’re working on and we will continue to work together to uh be able to benefit albertans and make sure that we advocate for the issues that matter to emoni I I think City council’s decision to pass an

Emergency motion that they made clear will do nothing provides no other resources and changes the circumstances on the ground and no way was a waste of time it was a political stunt and I will stand by that the Alberta’s government instead has been very much focused on immediate and real concrete action uh

That we are undertaking to address this issue we’re calling on the city of Emon to continue to support us in that effort uh and I think for the people of Emon and the people of Alberta they don’t want us to talk and have motions in committees what they want us to do is

Take action and what you saw with the Alberta Government yesterday was clear action on a very important issue a action sometimes requires Focus though right and people putting the political pressure on people act I mean the data I’ve read minister is there’s twice as many homeless people in Edmonton or

House people without housing in in eiton than there were before the pandemic I mean that kind of rate and the issues you’ve documented for municipality that would certainly be urgent if not an emergency situation would it not we we but the government is already taking action so I can tell you the mayor’s

Motion has not put any more urgency on me than we already have the premier has made clear to us has put together a cabinet committee that has the Emon chief of police as well as multiple indigenous leaders on it who have been given a task to immediately deal with

This issue and we are immediately dealing with this issue so uh adding uh motions to it that just make it sound like something can be accomplished that can’t uh I think is unhelpful and but again I mean I I I’m okay I mean let the city of Edmonton do that it doesn’t

Benefit the city at all the but the province is focused on immediate real concrete action to get results on this very important issue Minister Jason Nixon thank you so much for your time today thanks for having me on

The Alberta government opened a new $13-million temporary navigation and support centre in Edmonton that will provide services such as housing support and health care to people removed from homeless encampments. The move comes as the Edmonton Police Service plans to take down encampments at an ‘accelerated pace,’ the city’s police chief says.

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14 COMMENTS

  1. This is ridiculous, back around 2010, alberta had a booming housing industry, just a bad reflection on how this government had destroyed the economy

    Not to mention how immigration is out of control, thousands of criminals streaming into Canada from India

  2. Personally looks to me like Edmonton is doing well at at least housing some of these people after taking down the encampments . If they don’t want to go into the provided shelters with food beds showers , then they maybe don’t want help and should be left to fend for themselves . At least there is an option .

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