City serves 24-hour notice to vacate homeless camps

·4 min read

The City of Lethbridge served “24-hour notice to vacate” flyers Tuesday afternoon to homeless encampments in the Civic Centre downtown as part of efforts to address the situation.

“The City is continuing to do what we have set out to do. As we stated several months ago, when an encampment comes entrenched, there’s dangerous activity that starts to happen and safety issues that develop in an encampment setting that can be a risk to people in the encampment, but also to the general public, said Director of Community Services Mike Fox in a press conference Wednesday.

“This isn’t the first time that we’ve tried to encourage people to move on. The only difference on this one is (it’s) on the Civic site, it is under a petty trespass act, instead of being under the parks bylaw, or streets bylaw. There’s a little bit of a different process.

“That’s why the notifications were put out. We have been dropping by the site as often as possible. The site did become unsafe and our service providers couldn’t do outreach in the encampment anymore,” said Fox.

At last Tuesday’s city council meeting mayor Blaine Hyggen brought forward a motion looking to address the issue.

By a 7-1 vote, council approved spending up to $230,000 to address administrative and policing funding shortfalls aiming to enhance the city’s ongoing resolution.

The flyer handed out at the camps states the occupants are in contravention of the Petty Trespass Act RSA 2000, cP-11, notifying them that entry onto the premises is prohibited and the area must be vacated. Failing to comply will lead to enforcement of actions under the Petty Trespass Act.

An overhead view of area on the flyer is bordered by red and includes the Civic Centre fieldworker and Civic Centre YMCA extension.

It states that failure to comply made lead to enforcement actions and people could be found guilty of an offence under the Petty Trespass Act.

The flyer also includes phone numbers for the CMHA Diversion Outreach Team, CMHA Crisis Intervention Team and Alpha House.

The City has an online resource for the Encampment Response Process, using approved initiatives from the 2019 Downtown Clean and Safe Strategy, saying it has expanded the downtown focused initiative to include a citywide focus.

The six-step process lists assessment, outreach, notification and response among those steps stressing the importance of safety concerns, on-site clean-up along with follow-up. Working with Lethbridge Police Service, the City is looking at safety concerns, wanting to make the area safe for the general public.

“We work with all our service providers. We do have a group that meets regularly to work on the issue of encampments without having places for people to go. We do have some shelter space but I don’t believe we could service all of the people facing homelessness at this time,” said Fox noting that shelter space is currently available.

“The shelter provides the best services for people facing homelessness. That the sooner that we can get a person into housing, or even into a type of housing, the better it is for them, or put them in touch with family or others.”

“What we’re trying to do is put other services, if it is council’s desire for us to do that, that would make it a more safer place and make sure the services are in place to look after the vulnerable population using that space,” said Fox adding the City os looking at alternatives to sanctions.

“One thing that council has done, they’ve been advocating with the province for more transitional housing, permanent supportive housing, all that continuum of care. That’s really at the root of everything is to try and give somebody a place where all the services are available. Make sure that they’re looked after. Once we can get somebody off of living rough or sleeping rough, then it’s easier to deal with other issues that arise.”

Fox said the City wants to work with the homeless and city stakeholders to organize clean-ups of the area, making the site safe for everyone.

Ryan Clarke, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Lethbridge Herald

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