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DebraW
20-07-2007, 09:50 AM
Tent city solution needed soon

The Edmonton Journal
Published: July 20, 2007 2:21 am

There is no easy way to deal with the tent city that sprung up in the last few weeks on vacant land just east of downtown. Simply shutting it down -- the quick and easy solution -- is tempting, but not the best idea.

If the site is closed, as some advocate, the inhabitants won't magically disappear or suddenly find apartments at affordable rents. That accommodation isn't available. No, the campers will drift back into the river valley, find a corner in some back alley or a city park.

Dispersing the population doesn't necessarily make the wider community safer -- though it would hide from public view this uncomfortable, troubling symbol of an overheated economy and failed provincial housing policy.

At the same time, letting the numbers of campers grow on that spot is definitely not a good idea, either. That will exacerbate the security problems and crime issues.

In the very short run, the city may have to look at opening a couple of smaller sites, with proper security. Shocking as that suggestion seems, it may be the best way to keep the temporary campers safe and keep the criminal element in check.

At the same, time, there needs to be an all-out effort by agencies and governments to find housing for these people. Toronto managed to relocate most of the homeless in 2002 when a tent city there was torn down.

Edmonton must do the same, although it will take some resolve, some money and a range of solutions, not just more mattresses at the shelters.

It's a complex situation. Many people at the camp are hard-to-house, with addiction problems or mental-health issues. Some are kicked out of shelters and need supports in daily living.

Some campers, by their own admission, are bad tenants with a bad habit of too much partying. They need a push to get back into regular housing and to remember the rules.

There are also couples who prefer to avoid shelters that separate men and women, and some are new arrivals working at low-paying jobs.

Inner-city agencies are having some success finding housing, so the first priority must be to increase those efforts. That might require more operating funds for those agencies working with landlords, finding the basement suites, rent subsidies, negotiating for some tolerance here and there.

Jim Gurnett of the Mennonite Centre for Newcomers says it used to take an afternoon of scouring the city to find spots. But in this tight market, the job takes three or four days, he says.

It's also time to review shelter policies to see what can be done to make them more liveable, more secure, and less frightening places for now. Shelters were originally meant to be a bed for a night or two for transient workers or those down on their luck -- a minimalist approach that's fine in normal economic times.

In this red-hot economy, shelters are serving a whole range of people who can't find a home as well as those who can't live on their own. It's no surprise some people shy away from the rigid rules and harsh atmosphere.

The city and the province then need to get to work on a better range of housing. This week, the Edmonton Community Drug Strategy Task Force came up with a proposal for a "tolerance shelter" (you won't be evicted if you show up drunk or stoned) to provide beds for youth 18 to 24 with mental-health issues.

Mayor Stephen Mandel says he'll help push that forward, and the province will have to come up with some cash. Let's get on with it.

In Toronto, almost 90 per cent of former tent city residents remained housed 18 months after they were relocated. Social agencies also calculated it was more costly to keep people in shelters than it was to find them accommodation using rent subsidies and social supports.

The city and other agencies involved in housing will meet next week. They need to find the resolve to get the job done, before the snow flies.

© The Edmonton Journal 2007

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DebraW
20-07-2007, 09:52 AM
Please note I started a new thread on the housing crisis and this one will be just on the tent city situation.

The other thread can be found here:

http://www.connect2edmonton.ca/forum/viewtopic.php?t=2722

So does anyone have any ideas on how to turn this crisis around or at least out a brake on it?

sweetcrude
20-07-2007, 10:40 AM
Please note I started a new thread on the housing crisis and this one will be just on the tent city situation.

The other thread can be found here:

http://www.connect2edmonton.ca/forum/viewtopic.php?t=2722

So does anyone have any ideas on how to turn this crisis around or at least put a brake on it?

I'm not sure we should be doing a lot really. I don't believe the current location is the best for it, but everyone needs a space and if a tent is what works, well then that's what works. It's pretty difficult to find one solution or a variety of them to such a complex problem. However, I spent some time a while back listening to a speech that was fairly enlightening. It's not exactly the right context, but it's still somewhat relevant...

The speaker...
http://www.ted.com/index.php/speakers/view/id/43

The talk...
http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/view/id/36

In addition, I heard an interview on CBC radio the other day with a guy living in tent city... He described the crime/noise/garbage as unfortunate, but there is already a few people in the group that are acting in a coordinated way to somewhat curb bad behavior (littering, noise, etc). Take that for what it's worth, but it goes to show that there is already some effort to try to organize the place and make it a little less offensive.

DebraW
20-07-2007, 08:44 PM
Downtown land turning into toilet bowl

Fri, July 20, 2007
By AJAY BHARDWAJ, SUN MEDIA

Elsy Arias, resident manager for an apartment building at 10720 108 St., sits on the front steps of the building on Friday afternoon. Arias is fed up with homeless Edmontonians that have taken up residence on the lawn beside the building.

Homeless people rolled up in blankets are turning an empty parcel of downtown land and the area around it into their own toilet bowl, says a woman living in a nearby apartment building.

“Oh my God, sometimes you can see 20, 25 people there,” said Elsy Arias, who manages four apartment buildings near the camp at 107 Avenue and 108 Street. “You can see their clothes, sometimes you can see people sleeping in blankets.

“You can see them having sex.

“People here are scared of these homeless. They’re not scared of confronting the neighbours.”

Most curl up under blankets and sleeping bags, do their laundry and leave their underwear to dry on a nearby fence, she added.

“I wish these people would have a place to live.

“This is not even tent city,” she said. “These people don’t even have tents.”

The squatters moved into the empty lot about three months ago, said Arias who’s called police, bylaw and Capital Health without getting any response.

“At night it’s even worse,” said Arias. “That’s when they bring the ladies here and they have sex in the bushes.”

Capital Health will monitor the site to make sure public health issues don’t arise, says spokesman Rob Stevenson.

He said Capital Health inspectors have been to the camp and so far have only found remnants of campers, including garbage and evidence of two to four tents. Inspectors would shut down the camp for not having clean drinking water and toilets, he added.

“Our number one concern is to ensure the health and safety of everyone in the region,” said Stevenson.

Street pastor Pedro Schultz, who has participated in housing demonstrations, said it’s incumbent on the government to find a place to shelter the homeless.

“We have over 2,600 homeless people and no legal place for these people to go,” said Schultz.

“There’s a crisis and there’s no legal place the government will let them stay.”

He said he tried to set up a homeless camp in Dawson Park out of sight of people, where there are washrooms and other amenities. He said residents even elected a council, found security guards and set hours from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. But he added the idea was nixed by city police.

He said the provincial government must do something to help the homeless.

“If they don’t do something, I’m afraid there’ll be violence,” said Schultz.

Meanwhile, Stevenson admitted Capital Health doesn’t know how many tent cities there could be in Edmonton.

“There’s no way for us to tell and that’s why we need people to tell us,” said Stevenson.

Anyone who sees a homeless camp should call Capital Health at 413-7711.

[email protected]

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DebraW
21-07-2007, 09:35 AM
Desperate days & nights
Homeless and working poor struggle through a hard-scrabble existence in tent city

Elise Stolte, With files from Shaughn Butts and Jim, The Edmonton Journal
Published: July 21, 2007 7:04 am

Tent city sleeps in shifts.

Residents in the front row, scattered tents closer to the sidewalk, take the first shift. After midnight, only the occasional snore filters through the thin walls. These people are also the first up and washed in the morning.

Near the fence, the rhythm is different. Tents are clustered together under tarps. Younger, often better dressed men and women sit, watch and walk through the night.

TENT CITY AFTER DARK: A man known as Richard sits up in his tent on the edge of tent city near 96th Street and 105th Avenue.

Security keeps a close eye on them.

Police say gang members have moved into tent city. In the past three weeks, they have made several arrests, investigated two stabbings and confiscated swords, knives, drugs and cash.

Now politicians are asking if tent city should be shut down.

On Thursday night, two reporters set up their own tent and check it out.

- 8:30 p.m. -- We set up camp close to the middle of 60-odd tents in the provincially owned lot. From here, we can see both the isolated and the clustered tents. The Bissell Centre, at 10527 96th Street, sits to the east along with a row of four porta-potties and a common water tank. The back fence runs parallel to 105A Avenue.

A police car pulls in, leaving after a few minutes. Two Beretta security guards, paid by the Edmonton Housing Trust Fund, make a circuit through the tents.

- 8:50 p.m. -- An argument breaks out at the first cluster of tents nearest the Bissell Centre. "This is my tent, I asked you guys to be polite," yells a woman called Ruth. Soon three people leave, wandering to the next group of tents.

- 8:55 p.m. -- A man called Archie stops by our tent. "We're a f***ing first world country in Third World conditions." He smells of alcohol and introduces himself twice. First he rails against the cops for saying gangs invaded tent city. Then he says, well, maybe there are gangs. He's a Warrior, he says.

- 9:05 p.m. -- Yelling breaks out in another cluster of tents. It sounds like a man and woman fighting over a beer. "That's f***ing Red Alert ****," yells a male voice.

- 9:07 p.m. -- A young man in a baseball cap wanders by with what looks like a wad of $20s. He joins a few others and they walk off past the Bissell Centre.

- 9:15 p.m. -- In one of the tents away from the groups, a man and a woman sit quietly on cots. "In my life I've had a lot of beatings," the man says. "Someone gets jacked here every night." He doesn't want to give his name.

- 9:20 p.m. -- Yelling breaks out at the far end of the fence between Archie and a man waving an eight-inch blade. Then Archie stalks through the yard carrying a long metal bar. He drops it off at a friend's tent, then comes back to get it. The yelling subsides.

- 9:45 p.m. -- The back corner is nearly deserted. A girl in her 20s sleeps on a bench pulled from a van. Tarps are pulled tight across the tent doors.

Archie sits beside his 68-year-old mother, the oldest person in the camp, she says. He gives her insulin twice a day and hopes to send her back to the reserve near Lac La Biche. Her old TV was smashed last night. "What's the use, just let it go," she says.

By the fence, three people sit on an old, pink couch. More sit talking inside an eight-man tent. A woman in her 30s standing at the door sports a solid black eye. She doesn't want to talk about it.

- 10:02 p.m. -- Darryl wanders over from his tent by the fence. The 41-year-old has a cigarette and a comb stashed in one sock, something in a small plastic bag in the other. He won't say what. Instead he recites a poem about his time in jail -- "I'm just a number, surrounded by stone." He rants about the horror of residential schools. Then he kicks into a country song about beautiful women.

- 10:05 p.m. -- Music from A Taste of Edmonton in Winston Churchill Square can be heard in the background.

Dusk is falling.

- 10:10 p.m. -- Two men in their 20s stop by the first tent along the fence. A girl ties a red band of cloth around one man's head. White goes around the second. Then they walk down the street.

- 10:20 p.m. -- A man who calls himself The Kid stops by. He can't pay rent because he used all his money for bail, he says. He was on parole for mischief and then got caught drinking. But he's not staying tonight because he says a thunderstorm is on the way.

- 10:38 p.m. -- Darryl calms down. A woman massages his hand at his campsite while he stares at the stars.

- 10:39 p.m. -- "Does anyone know how to flush these f***ing toilets?" yells a women inside one of the porta-potties. Her voice rings out over the camp that is slowly quieting.

- 10:44 p.m. -- A man walks past gripping a broad-tipped hunting arrow.

Another, who doesn't want his name used, says a gang war is coming. We shouldn't be here. "It's like a big fuse. We're just waiting for it to go off."

He looks across to the clustered tents. "Right now, the day people are laying down and the night people are waking up. You think New York never sleeps."

- 10:52 p.m. -- The private security guards show up in the field again. We haven't seen them for a while.

- 11:15 p.m. -- Shantie is standing by the water tank, weaving back and forth. She says she's been drinking Listerine and three men tried to pull her pants down tonight. She says the stitches on her upper lip are from when she was beat up four days ago. She says she has five kids. She stumbles and nearly falls.

- 11:22 p.m. -- Harry comes out of his tent by the water tank to pound the tent pegs deeper. You can't fall asleep until 2 a.m. or 3 a.m., he says.

- 11:27 p.m. -- Marilyn and her husband Fenton come back from A Taste of Edmonton. They fill bottles at the water tank. "The music got too loud," Marilyn says. "I just wanted to come home and sleep." They wander back to their tent by the sidewalk.

- 11:29 p.m. -- Two men in a Mercedes Benz drive into the field. It's heading for the back corner. Security guards yell and run over. It reverses, nearly hitting a woman carrying water.

- 11:32 p.m. -- The field is quiet. One man leans on a shopping cart, the butt of his cigarette glows.

-11:36 p.m. -- A black Nissan Altima pulls to the curb. "Bro," a man calls softly. Two men in their 30s ride up on bikes and talk through the window.

- 11:54 p.m. -- A red Daytona stops on the road. Two other men in their 20s or 30s talk through the open window.

- 11:56 p.m. -- The security guards stand on the sidewalk.

- 11:57 p.m. -- A man in his 20s rides through the field on a bike. It has dual suspension. The front fork alone is worth at least $600. Three different men have been riding it tonight.

- 12:26 a.m. -- Two girls wander by in tight jeans, heading out past the Bissell Centre.

- 12:28 a.m. -- A man stumbles by. He pauses to pull up his jeans. His hand grabs a white plastic bag wrapped around the neck of a bottle.

- 12:36 a.m. -- Mike comes by looking for a light. He has a cigarette burn on his shoulder, another on his arm. His lip is cut and his eye socket is bruising. He was in five fist fights. He lost his shirt. "And this isn't even my hat. I had a New York hat. God, I hate this place."

- 12:49 a.m. -- Mike trades a cigarette for a percocet, a strong prescription painkiller. He holds the white pill between his fingers.

- 12:50 a.m. -- Four young men and women come back to the camp, stumbling a little. Five minutes later, a teenager follows, leaning heavily on a friend. Perhaps they're coming from a bar.

- 1:14 a.m. -- Dante stops by. "This is good. This is community," he says. "I came here because it reminds me of the way my ancestors used to live."

- 1:32 a.m. -- Wesley rolls by in a wheelchair, coming back from the porta-potties. He was jumped the other night, he says. They fractured his ankle. "Down here there's too much crack flying around."

- 2:59 a.m. -- A woman stops by to buy a cigarette. She offers a percocet. I just give her the cigarette.

- 3:34 a.m. -- Two men walk from tent to tent along the fence, staying a few minutes at each. Business deals?

- 3:37 a.m. -- A group of four gather near the clustered tents. They talk quietly and a cellphone glows. Over the next five minutes more people gather. The tension builds. All are in their 20s or 30s and are fairly well dressed.

- 3:41 a.m. -- Two more security guards show up. There are four security guards standing together.

- 3:43 a.m. -- "Get out of here," one man yells to another.

Two security guards walk forward and stand about six metres from the group. The guards stare straight at the group.

- 3:48 a.m. -- The man with a cellphone makes another call. "I have 98 Street. ... Where is that?"

- 3:50 a.m. -- The sky in the east starts to turn red.

Slowly the group disperses. Two men argue; one rides off on a bike.

- 4:50 a.m. -- Security guards say they're done and drive off.

- 5:10 a.m. -- Darryl stands outside his tent, gently holding a woman. He brushes her hair. He gives her a kiss.

- 5:17 a.m. -- Rob gets up and washes his face at the water tank.

- 5:38 a.m. -- A man in a dirty yellow shirt comes by with a grocery cart. He tries to sell car batteries for $20 each. Another sticks his hand out of a tent with a beer bottle. He pours it on the ground.

- 6:30 a.m. -- Marilyn and Fenton get up and Fenton's boss stops by to pick him up for work.

Another night in tent city.

[email protected]

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DebraW
24-07-2007, 07:10 AM
Tale of two tent cities poses a dilemma
Some deserve help; some neither want it nor deserve it

Paula Simons, The Edmonton Journal
Published: July 24, 2007 2:05 am

"Hard to house."

Now there's an elegant euphemism for you. A nice balanced rhythm, a neat symmetrical structure, a dash of alliteration. And like every good euphemism, it pretties up an ugly and difficult reality we would prefer not to confront.

But this summer in Edmonton, the hard to house are even harder to ignore. There are at least 200 of them now, camped in tent city, where we can't pretend not to see them.

There have been lots of calls from well-meaning people who are mortified by the image of tent city, who want the city and province to "solve" the problem. But this is no simple problem to solve. The province says it already offered alternative housing to everyone on the site. Most have apparently turned down those offers, however.

Why? To understand that, we need to understand who's living on the site.

A few of the residents are not chronically homeless, just people who have found themselves in a temporary mess. Maybe they've been evicted. Maybe they're fleeing an abusive home. Maybe they're new arrivals to Edmonton, eager to find work, but without the cash for first and last month's rent.

These folks, of course, are the easiest to sympathize with -- and the easiest to help. A little social assistance, like a subsidized apartment, and they're well on their way.

There are some in tent city who fit this description, people who need a free place to crash until they get their lives back together. But they're not really "hard to house" -- just hard up for housing.

Then there are those who suffer from mental illness. Perhaps they're schizophrenic, or bipolar, or severely depressed. Maybe they're coping with brain injury or dementia. Some have stopped taking their medication. Others are self-medicating with alcohol or street drugs.

Even in this boom economy, their disabilities prevent them from finding and keeping work. What many such people need isn't just a bigger AISH cheque and a cheap apartment. They need supportive housing, with a social worker or public health nurse checking in to make sure they're taking their meds, to make sure they're coping.

But now we come to the third category of homeless -- the ones who typify the dilemma that tent city represents. They're the party animals, the drug dealers, the petty criminals, the rootless, the rebels.

They are not interested in shelters or recovery programs or supportive housing. They're not interested in staying clean or paying rent or following rules. Oh, they're happy enough to cash their welfare cheques, pitch their $200 tents and take advantage of government-provided drinking water and latrines and security services. They're just not keen on conforming to our dull, middle-class social norms.

We could offer these people every support -- and it wouldn't make much difference.

These are the nightmare tenants most private landlords dread. They don't want steady jobs or psychological counselling or addiction treatment -- not right now.

For them, tent city is a lifestyle choice and a form of social protest -- a place where they can drink, buy drugs and sex onsite and party 24/7, a community that offers its own rough comradeship.

There are plenty of clean, supervised shelter beds in Edmonton going empty every night. But some people would rather camp downtown -- or in the river valley, or in some other urban hidey-hole -- than sleep in a shelter, with all its strictures and conditions.

For them, Edmonton's new shantytown represents freedom -- freedom from responsibility, freedom from rules, freedom to live their lives exactly as they choose.

Except that none of this is free. These latter-day hobos are squatting on provincial land, receiving services at public expense.

We're the ones picking up the tab for this round-the-clock street party.

What to do about it? By all means, the city and province should continue to work together to find emergency or supportive housing for those on the site who honestly need and want it.

As for the rest? Well, my first reaction was to say let them stay where they are, near the Bissell Centre and other inner-city social agencies.

After all, I reasoned, if we broke up the party and dispersed the squatters, they would reconvene elsewhere, and somewhere, perhaps, not so easy to monitor. With winter, I figured the tent city problem would resolve itself.

Yet now I'm not so sure. According to police, and The Journal reporters who have spent time at the campsite, tent city has become a magnet for drug dealers and buyers, a nexus of criminal activity that's becoming more violent and more volatile.

Letting the squatters become entrenched, giving their community passive social sanction, may not be the smartest strategy.

Truth is, I have no elegant solution. We can't just bundle up these truly "hard to house" and force them to conform with our bourgeois values.

That is what's so perplexing about tent city.

We don't mind helping the "deserving poor," as George Bernard Shaw would put it.

It's extending that sense of charity to the "undeserving poor" -- the people who defy our social contract -- that's the challenge.

We should be embarrassed and disturbed by the spectre of tent city. It exemplifies an aspect of the human condition that few of us want to confront. It symbolizes the dark underbelly of Edmonton's boom.

And, if nothing else, perhaps it serves a larger moral purpose in making that dark side impossible for us to forget, impossible for us to ignore.

[email protected]

© The Edmonton Journal 2007

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24karat
24-07-2007, 10:57 AM
That's both scary and sad. I thought Vancouver's lower East side was bad, but Edmonton's got a major problem as well. Is that something that all big cities have to contend with?

I do know that a new remand center is being planned, to possibly be located near the VIA station. If that does come about, I wonder what will become of the present facility.

I don't know whether or not there are any plans for the current building when the new one is built and the inmates transferred.

If it has not yet been suggested, I would propose the current facility be converted to temporary housing for the homeless.

DebraW
25-07-2007, 09:01 AM
Put vacant space to use

The Edmonton Journal
Published: 25 July 2007 1:22 am

Re: "Tent city solution needed soon," Editorial, July 20.

The lethargy and pong of tent city stands in stark contrast to the liveliness and aroma of our beloved festival city. This begs the question: why is there not already a process for managing something that can affect any one of us?

The MacEwan area fire shows our vulnerability, and demands we examine our strategies and procedures. To gauge how we treat the most vulnerable in society, we should apply ourselves the way we hope to be treated in time of need. Abundance is everywhere, yet mobilization remains problematic.

What would you do if you found yourself homeless like the residents of MacEwan? Would you call on friends? The Red Cross? Your church? Perhaps just find a hotel?

For many Albertans, the drumbeat of productivity and economic pressure is deafening. Many will turn to the vices they know well, to escape from reality, to seek a connection. Some will find their way to the improvised village in the heart of our city.

Arguably, many of the inhabitants of the tent city would be on the street regardless, choosing to "live free" rather than conform to shelter rules or temporary housing criteria. Understandably, politicians are uncomfortable when they see this sprouting up without structure and security, but what else can we expect without oversight to manage and treat root causes of this "complex solution?"

As the editorial notes, many have behavioural disorders, addictions and a history of previous evictions or convictions. An advantage is that this is a centralized and convenient opportunity for "processing on" to an appropriate help. The public sees government's temporary fix: stay here for a while, and move on. Clearly there is service needed beyond a tent site.

To sustain the momentum of our impressive economy, we also need to look at the increasing stories of transient workers, immigrants and students who are increasingly facing similar circumstances and challenges. Here the effects of decentralized government co-ordination can be seen: dozens of agencies in this province and, seemingly, no meaningful way to collaborate during a time of need.

What's the solution? Infrastructure is always a hot topic. No one wants to spend money on it, but everyone wants to get rich from it, or at least get a good return on investment. When there is a need for it, no one wants to give it up. When it comes to building, the last thing most people want to see in their neighbourhood is "affordable housing." Regrettably, this is human nature, yet we must realize this is our shared responsibility.

Within reason, we should all be doing our part and we cannot rely on governments to solve all our problems. Solutions must sprout from the grassroots.

There are thousands of homes, vacant offices and buildings in this city, yet how much of that space is used for living, for sheltering someone in need, for providing a home to a struggling family? Edmontonians, would you open your doors to help the homeless?

Miles Berry, Sherwood Park

© The Edmonton Journal 2007

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DebraW
25-07-2007, 09:02 AM
Exporting the problem

The Edmonton Journal
Published: 25 July 2007 1:22 am

Re: "Ship-shape housing," by A.B. Schmidt, Letters, July 21.

Schmidt suggests converting shipping containers into affordable housing to resolve Edmonton's tent city problem. That is an excellent idea. Then, as winter and cold weather approaches, we could simply ship them all off to warmer climates, thereby helping both the occupants and the city.

Our society has clearly demonstrated a willingness and ability to help anyone who is unable, for legitimate reasons, to help themselves. I fully support efforts to help these people and such efforts should perhaps be increased.

The problem arises when we have to deal with people who do not want to help themselves. These people contribute nothing but problems to our society. Taxpayers' dollars should not continually be spent to accommodate those who do not want to help themselves and have simply chosen to live off the backs of others.

D.W. Smith, Edmonton

© The Edmonton Journal 2007

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DebraW
25-07-2007, 09:04 AM
Gov'ts created problem, they must solve it

The Edmonton Journal
Published: July 25, 2007 1:22 am

I am a proponent of Edmonton's tent city as a temporary fix as we strive to solve the housing crisis and perhaps move towards universal housing. The tent city should be kept safer and maintained as a dignified temporary shelter by the city and province while they look at a wide range of solutions that go beyond the free market.

The province must stop treating the impoverished as second-class citizens.

Approximately one billion people in the world are housed informally in tents, shacks, under bridges, in caves, in elevator shafts -- you name it.

Given that fact, you would think that solving our relatively small homeless problem (of 2,650 people in Edmonton) and overall housing issue in Alberta would be easy. However, this is not the case, given the current and previous Conservative governments' policy of letting the free market deal with housing.

This housing issue is not simply felt by the homeless and impoverished, but also by seniors, students (as we will see come late August) and, to a growing extent, middle-income and working people. While our urban landscape is increasingly being dotted with unaffordable single-family homes, a rupture in our socioeconomic landscape is swallowing a growing number of people.

Banks, developers, big business, and a Conservative government that caters to the aforementioned have arranged this from the start of this boom -- a boom, that we musk ask, is for whom?

Greg Farrants, Albertans Demand Affordable Housing (ADAH)

© The Edmonton Journal 2007

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Dusty Bear
25-07-2007, 09:16 AM
I do know that a new remand center is being planned, to possibly be located near the VIA station. If that does come about, I wonder what will become of the present facility.


The location of the remand centre was chosen already and it will be in north Edmonton.

There is talk about turning the old immigration building at the top of Grierson Hill into a shelter, but that could be several years away.

I really have no clue what to do about tent city in the short-term. I don't think there is an easy solution.

DebraW
29-07-2007, 02:20 AM
Tent city growing fast
Social problems expanding along with it

Sun, July 29, 2007
By CARTER HAYDU, SUN MEDIA

Tent city behind the Bissell Centre has grown from about 10 tents in June to about 70 now. As many as 180 homeless people live on the property. (Jason Franson, Sun Media)

Since "tent city" found its permanent home behind the Bissell Centre last month, the shantytown has grown as rapidly as its problems.

Homeless Edmontonian Tracy Moyah stood between a clutter of tents at the downtown provincially owned lot under the 30 C sun yesterday afternoon, looking out on the crowds of people lying on the grass or walking about the area.

She said as more people make their home at tent city, the social problems become worse.

"People are sick and grouchy - a lot of fights for no reason," she told Sun Media.

Moyah said she keeps safe by staying out of everyone's way, but others in the shanty town don't fare as well.

Shelley Williams, Bissell Centre executive director, said the number of tents on the lot has grown from about 10 in June to around 70 now. She said as many as 180 homeless live on the property.

Williams said the people living in tent city manage their own affairs and with so many now on the lot, self-governing is difficult. She believes tent city has become somewhat hectic over the last month.

EPS downtown Staff Sgt. John Fiorilli said the increase in homeless people at the downtown lot creates several public safety concerns, such as drug dealing and gang activity.

Fiorilli said police regularly monitor the site, as do private security personell hired by the city. If any gang members are identified in tent city, Fiorilli said, those individuals are evicted.

He added anyone breaking the law is evicted as well, including tent city residents caught drinking alcohol.

"(If caught), they get charged and they get kicked out of that city," he said.

However, Williams believes with more homeless in tent city, residents are more likely to drink.

She said their reality is so bleak and, with so many people around, it's difficult for anyone to form strong support networks.

Williams suggested there should be multiple smaller tent cities set up around Edmonton.

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DebraW
30-07-2007, 02:56 PM
Edmonton tent city 'unacceptable': Alberta housing minister
Plan coming ... soon

Mon, July 30, 2007
Edmonton Sun

Alberta’s housing minister says a tent city in downtown Edmonton where 100 homeless people are living is “unacceptable” and is not going to stay in its present form much longer.

Ray Danyluk says the government will be announcing a plan in the next several days to deal with the tent town, which is located on provincially owned land near a non-profit centre for the homeless.

Critics say it has taken the government too long to do something about the makeshift community, which has grown from a handful of tents in early June to about 70.

Danyluk says the government doesn’t want to force people out until there are alternatives because that would just force the problem elsewhere.

He says the government has been working on some of the concerns the site’s residents have with living in homeless shelters.

He says some of the sticking points included whether couples can stay together and whether shelters can provide locked up locations for personal belongings.

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DebraW
30-07-2007, 04:08 PM
Dangerous place
Housing officials wonder what to do about tent city near Bissell Centre

Susan Ruttan, edmontonjournal.com
Published: July 30, 2007 3:58 pm

The growing size of tent city is making it an increasingly dangerous place, say housing officials trying to find a solution of the informal downtown camp.

"Because of the size of the camp, it's getting quite dangerous," said Susan McGee of the Joint Planning Committee on Housing in an interview today.

"It has the potential of escalating with that number of people in unmanaged space."

Several hundred homeless people have been camping for the past month on a vacant lot near the Bissell Centre on 96th Street. In recent weeks, criminal gangs have moved into the camp.

McGee and representatives of other agencies joined city and provincial officials met today to discuss what to do about tent city.

Tracy Balash, spokesperson for Housing Minister Ray Danyluk, said the growing numbers and safety issues are a big concern.

She said work is being done to convince campers to move into 200 vacant spaces in homeless shelters, by dealing with the reasons the campers reject the shelters.

"We are making progress in some areas but we're not there yet."

McGee said getting the tenters into shelters isn't going to be easy, especially in this warm weather which is nice for camping.

"As well, many of the people who choose to camp are camping for their own safety and with people they know - they're couples, or even with family," she said. "So they want to stay together in a group, and that's not possible in a shelter."

Her organization, which looks for strategies to combat homelessness, opposes the creation of more homeless shelters, because they don't solve the problem. What's needed, McGee said, is more transitional housing and supportive housing to provide real homes for people who often have complex needs.

She said the ultimate goal for tent city will be to shut it down "with as little confrontation or as few problems as possible for the people who are there."

[email protected]

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DebraW
30-07-2007, 10:15 PM
'You just can’t kick people out'
Alberta housing minister says action on tent city looms

Mon, July 30, 2007
By CP

The pyramid shaped dome of City Hall points skyward behind tent city, west of the Bissell Centre, on Monday. Alberta's housing minister says tent city will be dealt with soon.

The Alberta government is poised to move on a tent city in downtown Edmonton where more than 100 homeless people are living, the province’s housing minister said Monday.

Ray Danyluk said the government will be announcing a plan in the next several days to deal with the tent town, which is located on provincially owned land near a non-profit centre for the homeless.

“The situation as it is right now is unacceptable,” he said.

“Our staff are meeting with the partners, the municipalities and the different groups, and the situation as you see it is not going to stay in its present form.”

Critics say it has taken the government too long to do something about the makeshift community, which has grown from a handful of tents in early June to about 70.

Security patrols the site, but police say there have been problems with gangs and drugs.

It has taken time for the government to decide how to deal with the issue, said Danyluk, who added the government can’t force people to leave without a plan.

“You just can’t kick people out ... because they’re going to have an effect on other areas,” he said. “In essence, we want to make sure that there are alternatives.”

The tent community has continued to grow despite open spaces in city shelters.

Danyluk said the government and other agencies have been trying to solve some of the problems that have prompted people to pitch a tent as opposed to turning to the shelters.

He said some of the sticking points include whether couples can stay together and whether shelters can provide secure locations for personal belongings.

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DebraW
31-07-2007, 04:28 PM
Tents to fold
City, province to shut down tent city over safety, security concerns

edmontonjournal.com
Published: July 31, 2007 4:10 pm

Tent city, a makeshift camp near downtown Edmonton for hundreds of homeless people, will be shut down due to safety concerns.

The city, the province and inner-city relief agencies are working towards the managed closure of the site, located on a vacant lot near the Bissell Centre on 96th Street.

People now living at the site will be required to register and be provided identification by the end of the week so they can stay on a temporary basis. No new new campers will be allowed.

An unidentified man walks among the tents at tent city located behind the Bissel Centre along 105th Avenue near 96th Street.

"New actions to limit growth of the tent city and solve issues related to use of shelters are timely and important," Mayor Stephen Mandel said in a prepared statement. "The city will continue to work collaboratively with the Edmonton Police Service, the province, and health and community and emergency services agencies towards a managed closure of the site.

"Edmonton has a homeless issue, but camping in City parks and non-designated public lands is illegal, and is not a solution to this complex issue."

Work has commenced on a perimeter fence and discussions are underway with shelter operators to jointly manage the area, provincial officials said today in a news release.

New rules are being adopted top contribute to a safer environment. Twenty-four-hour security is now in place to ensure controls are maintained.

No firm closure date has been set - but the site will be closed, officials said

"Everyone agrees a tent city is not a viable housing solution," said Municipal Affairs Minister Ray Danyluk. "The province, the city and our partners in the non-profit sector have allocated valuable time and resources to maintaining the site while close to 200 shelter spaces sit empty each night. I understand there are reasons the campers are not utilizing the shelters spaces. We have identified those issues and are taking steps to address their concerns."

Hope Mission has agreed to provide some space for couples and additional spaces for individuals with drug and alcohol addictions as of Aug. 1. Arrangements will be made to provide people living at tent city with storage space for their belongings while they stay at the shelter.

"I am very thankful to the Hope Mission and our other agency partners for their valuable contribution to finding a solution," said Yvonne Fritz, associate minister of affordable housing and urban development. "I am looking forward to continuing our work together as we assist our most vulnerable citizens with addressing their housing needs."

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DebraW
31-07-2007, 11:13 PM
'They might as well give us uniforms'
Tent city to be surrounded by a fence

Tue, July 31, 2007
By RENATO GANDIA, SUN MEDIA

A month ago, it was called a tent city.

Now, some residents of Edmonton’s shantytown are calling the tent city located on the Bissell Centre property, 10527 96 St., a “concentration camp” and a “jail” as the province prepares to put a fence around it, possibly as early as Wednesday.

“I’m tired of the government’s rules and the society that’s why I’m here,” said a camper who goes by the name Al Big. “It’s going to look like a concentration camp.”

The new rules that will force the estimated 180 campers living in the approximate 61 tents to sign in and out of the property impinges on basic freedoms, say some residents. “They might as well give us uniforms.”

But fencing in what will become Edmonton’s poorest gated community is for the security of its residents, say government officials, who will not permit any newcomers to settle at the spot.

Long-term plans include housing current residents before shutting the site down for good.

Jerry Bellikka, a spokesman for Alberta Infrastructure and Transportation, was at the site as workers measured the circumference of the lot expected to be fenced Wednesday.

“We’re not putting them in a cage,” said Bellikka. “It’s just one way that we’re managing this place before we eventually close it.”

Bellikka said the province wants to provide campers with more security due to rising concerns about potential violence on site.

And current residents Judy Nadeau and Ruth E. Kappo support the plans.

“I like it no matter what,” said Nadeau, taking a sip of Ensure supplied by Bissell Centre staff.

“No, I don’t feel I’m getting caged in,” she said. “You can sleep at night and you don’t have to worry that your stuff will be stolen.”

Kappo said that was not the case Tuesday night, when her few meager belongings were stolen by a fellow camper. She later retrieved them and the culprit was booted off site.

Security guards, who start manning the site Tuesday, will now be posted there 24–7.

Current campers will have to register before they’re provided with identification, all of which should be done by week’s end. Organizers are still trying to determine when curfew will be.

For fire and safety reasons, the fenced facility will have two gates, one remaining open all night and manned by three security guards. Two security guards will man the site during the day.

Premier Ed Stelmach told reporters yesterday that eventually “the number of residents there will decrease.

“We want to do it in such a way that housing is available, transitional housing, and also support for the people.”

Stelmach added that there are many issues that the tent residents are facing and the province wants “to work with them in a compassionate way, to make sure that we do look after not only transitional but long term as well.”

Work had commenced Tuesday on a perimeter fence, and discussions are underway with shelter operators to jointly manage the area.

But Marvin (Smurf) Ross, says the place is going to “look like a jail.”

So he’s already moved from the site to another location with his partner Mary Jane St. Savard.

Ross claims there are three other tent cities in Edmonton but he doesn’t want to reveal the locations.

Liberal MLA Bruce Miller told Sun Media fencing is not a solution, but he did not offer a suggestion either.

“I think the answer has to come from a dialogue with the people themselves, the social agencies and the province.”

No firm closure date has been set.

-With files from Jeremy Loome

[email protected]

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DebraW
01-08-2007, 01:56 PM
Hope Mission opens doors to couples

edmontonjournal.com
Published: August 01, 2007 1:41 pm

In the face of the tent city crisis, the Hope Mission will be allowing couples to stay together in the shelter's emergency accommodation facilities starting tonight.

The provincial government has been scrambling to get people out of the makeshift camp that has been set up behind the Bissell Centre downtown. The government noted that many couples have complained they are not allowed to stay together at emergency shelters.

This is not the first time, however, the Hope Mission has allowed couples to stay at their facilities - the mission tried a similar scheme last winter, with disastrous results.

"Drama happens, fighting happens, screaming happens, so it was a lot of stress on our staff," said Janelle Aker, a Hope Mission spokeswoman.

Now, couples will be asked to leave if they don't obey the rules.

"Rules are going to be strictly enforced because the chances of freezing aren't happening," Aker said.

The provincial government is also trying to address another common complaint about the shelter system - the lack of space for homeless people to store their belongings.

"A lot of people will come with their shopping carts and we honestly don't have a place to store them," Aker said. "It's something we're emphasizing is important but we just don't have the resources to do it."

© Edmonton Journal 2007

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DebraW
02-08-2007, 09:43 PM
Fence surrounds tent city

Alexandra Zabjek, edmontonjournal.com
Published: August 02, 2007 9:12 pm

A chain-link fence now surrounds the patch of grass that Edmonton has come to know as tent city.

Two gates allow people to enter and leave the makeshift camp. A white trailer has been parked on-site to house security guards who monitor the tents 24 hours per day. "It's kind of like being an animal inside a park," said Jules Harkin, a tent city resident.

"When you walk through the gate, it feels like you're going into a prison camp," said Curtis, who declined to give his last name.

The fence was erected Thursday morning in what the provincial government has called a "managed closure" of the camp, which sits behind the Bissell Centre at 96th Street and 105th Avenue. About 40 tents stood at the site Thursday, substantially fewer than had been counted in the past.

Some living in tent city believe people will leave once the weather gets cold. Others say they will move out when they find houses they can afford. Many seem to agree the camp has brought greater attention to the city's homelessness problem.

"I think in a lot of ways, tent city has brought a lot of things that have been underground into the public eye," said Harkin. "You have quadruple the number of people who are here in tent city on the street, staying at the Herb Jamieson Centre, sleeping under trees or in the parks."

"This has made it out into the open, that's all," said Curtis. Today, Capital Health will start issuing photo identification to tent-city residents to keep track of the camp's population. The health authority is following the model used last fall to see how many people were "left behind" during the evacuation of New Orleans in the wake of hurricane Katrina.

"Those who are homeless or in the inner city often need photo ID to get access to things like a room for the night, food from the food banks and to cash cheques," said Dr. James Talbot, Capital Health's associate medical officer of health.

"In terms of public-health emergencies, we needed to have a way to work with inner-city agencies to ensure that people who were disadvantaged didn't get left behind as happened in Katrina," he said, about last fall's pilot project.

Harkin and Curtis agreed that photo ID would be useful.

But another resident, Cathy Janzen, said the ID program would further marginalize people in tent city.

"If they want to put labels or tags on us - it's not a concentration camp. It's a camp for people who don't have homes to go to," Janzen said. "We don't have to be made to feel small."

Alberta Infrastructure and Transportation, which owns the land tent city occupies, paid for the fence. The Edmonton Housing Trust Fund is paying for security guards at the site.

[email protected]

© Edmonton Journal 2007

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DebraW
02-08-2007, 09:46 PM
Tent city gets tight security
Residents will need valid ID cards to come and go

Thu, August 2, 2007
By CARTER HAYDU, SUN MEDIA

The cement holding the fence posts at Edmonton’s tent city is barely dry, yet would-be residents are already being turned away at the gates.

Tony, who wouldn’t give his last name, went to the shantytown at 105 Avenue and 96 Street on Wednesday, only to find the provincially owned lot full.

Security wouldn’t let him pitch his tent.

“I told them, ‘Where am I supposed to go?’” he said.

So the 31-year-old AISH recipient, who has lived on the streets since January, moved into the riverbank park bushes just down the hill from the Shaw Conference Centre.

To further keep out any new residents and increase security at the shantytown behind the Bissell Centre, tent city residents have to accept another security measure today – photo identification.

James Talbot, Capital Health associated medical officer, said staff will make the ID cards on site, using a camera, computer and printer.

He said tent city residents would also need someone to vouch for their identity.

Residents need the ID cards to enter and leave the lot.

Tent city resident Jules Harkin said all the added security makes tent city feel like a prison.

Just a few hours after the fence went up Thursday, he noticed tent city was a lot quieter than usual.

Harkin said it seems like someone is always coming up with new rules for tent city residents.

Outside the fenced area, however, Tony said being homeless in Edmonton is dangerous and stressful. Alone in the bush, he constantly worries about getting stabbed or beaten up.

He said if two people do pitch tents side by side, then they are always suspicious of each other, which can lead to violence.

“There’s gonna be fights man – wars.”

Tony is constantly having to pack up his tent and move.

He said forest rangers already kicked him out of one city park earlier this week, which is why he moved downtown.

Now he has to move again.

Tony said someone came to his tent Thursday and told him if he didn’t leave within 24 hours, he would be fined $250.

“Where’s a guy supposed to go? ... I’ve been moving this tent so many times, it’s starting to get holes all over.”

[email protected]

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kcantor
03-08-2007, 11:12 AM
First it was Renato Gandia reporting that some residents of Edmonton’s shantytown are calling the tent city located on the Bissell Centre property, 10527 96 St., a “concentration camp” and a “jail” as the province prepares to put a fence around it while "Al Big" is reported as saying “I’m tired of the government’s rules and the society that’s why I’m here...it’s going to look like a concentration camp.”

Now it's Alexandra Zabjek reporting that Jules Harkin thought it was "kind of like being an animal inside a park" and Curtis, who declined to give his last name, thought "when you walk through the gate, it feels like you're going into a prison camp" although both agreed that photo ID would be useful despite Cathy Janzen saying the ID program would further marginalize people in tent city.

While I am not condoning the circumstances of those in tent city - nor am I condoning tent city as a solution for them - to legitimize the opinions of those who should know better (because we should all know better), the opinions of those who are prepared to call a place they are free to come and go and who are prepared to call a fence and security being provided for their own protection a "concentration camp" or a "prison camp" is nothing more than demeaning for those who have survived such camps and those that have not. and just because these things may have been said to a reporter does not of itself make the statements either news or newsworthy - it adds nothing to the story other than being inflammatory.

unfortunately we still have not managed to eliminate concentration camps and prison camps but tent city is certainly not one of them and that kind of rhetoric - and the continued reporting of that kind of rhetoric - furthers no-ones rights. it cheapens the rights many have sacrificed so much for - including the right to establish a tent city to further a worthwhile effort and not have to worry about being sent to a concentration camp or a prison camp for those very efforts.

capital-city-crusader
03-08-2007, 11:38 AM
I think i might find myself agreeing with kcantor a lot!

For those of us who had family murdered at said concentration camps, reading comments like these is disappointing. The fences at tent city were put up to protect those people who are inside them. The provincial government is doiing what it can to help these people, which are not the easiest people to help in some cases. To suggest any comparison to concentration camps is irresponsible and ignorant!

But this is the problem with our society - we are so spoiled that we have competely lost touch with reality. Heaven forbid that we ever see ANYTHING even remotely close to a concentration camp in this country!

DebraW
03-08-2007, 11:41 AM
I think i might find myself agreeing with kcantor a lot!

Not all together a bad thing! :wink:

Dakine
03-08-2007, 11:50 AM
go witness these work camps up in fort mac where they house all the chinese workers. if that is not a concentration camp i dont know what is.

ralph60
03-08-2007, 12:13 PM
The camps at Fort McMurray are no closer to a concentration camp than is tent city.
If you don't know what one is just go to this site and find out.
http://www.auschwitz.dk/

kcantor
03-08-2007, 01:44 PM
go witness these work camps up in fort mac where they house all the chinese workers. if that is not a concentration camp i dont know what is.
and that would be just another example of those extremely demeaning statements that use inflammatory rhetoric to further a personal (or at least another) agenda. whether or not they are meant to be hateful or not does not matter, used in this fashion these statements are as hateful as they are ignorant and sad and inconsiderate and wrong.

DebraW
04-08-2007, 03:01 PM
Listen up, tent city's no concentration camp

Sat, August 4, 2007
By YUKON JACK, Edmonton Sun

Congratulations to the province for making the most out of a lose/lose situation regarding tent city.

Had they brought in the batons and dispersed the crowd, it wouldn't have looked too good. Instead, they're planning on slowly dissipating the makeshit "Bumopolis."

Now the homeless people are upset, making ridiculous statements, comparing the shantytown to a concentration camp!

Last I read, Hitler wasn't trying to find an affordable one-bedroom for the Jews. The site will be fenced. Nobody's locked in, but for the safety of those inside, people will be locked out. Much like you would do if you had a home.

The site will have round-the-clock security, putting an end to the dealing, thieving, pimping and ho-ing. In society, we have police officers who do the security thing.

Each resident will be issued ID. Not a tattoo on their wrist, just an ID card, much like you and I have. One resident was quoted as saying, "They might as well give us uniforms."

Sorry Chester, uniforms are usually reserved for people with jobs.

No human rights are being violated here.

All that's happening is the government is stepping in and doing what it does for every functioning member of society: attempting to ensure the well-being of the individuals as well as the community.

Go figure, the selfish minority who don't want to follow the rules of society are crying foul. Newsflash bum ...that attitude was probably a contributing factor in your ending up in a tent behind the Bissel in the first place. In the meantime ... I'll just shut my big yap.

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Dakine
05-08-2007, 09:38 AM
i think most people need to consider themselves lucky we got our education when the time was good, we also purchased homes that went up 500%....try doing that now working minimum wage to pay the rent and save for school. sometimes even looking after a family. If i had to do things again now i would be sleeping in a tent too.

allot of older people need to start over too sometimes maybe you hurt yourself and are unable to work in your field, the doctors give you perks, oxycottens(hilbilly heroin) allot of people have become adicted to this chit.what about the dude that gets divorced and loses everything(woman useally gets it all) he gets $1000 a month in child suport payment and he needs to start over again, maybe he is 50 <---do you see any hope in this guy LOL I see it at work every day we got guys in there 70's out there working because they need to.

It can happen to anyone, anytime.....most of us can lauph now call them loser's, crackheads, bums what ever.[/img]

DebraW
05-08-2007, 12:43 PM
Sun, August 5, 2007
By NEIL WAUGH

The provincial government has finally decided to fold the tent on tent city. All we can say is what took them so long?

Clearly the Stelmach government has some challenges providing affordable housing for growing numbers of working Albertans.

For many, the ability to take part in the Alberta Advantage is blocked by the increasing cost of living created by the boom.

And when Premier Ed Stelmach declared that there's "no touching the brake," the situation only got worse.

But having a couple of hundred folks camping on a government lot behind the Bissell Centre is, in Housing Minister Ray Danyluk's words, "not a viable housing solution."

So the fence has gone up, a residents' registry has begun, no new tent city campers are allowed and rowdies and lawbreakers will be summarily turfed from the compound.

It's what Danyluk calls a "managed closure" of the site.

While the usual suspects from the "homeless" industry wring their hands, Danyluk was quick to point out that on most nights there are 200-odd empty spaces at Edmonton's homeless shelters.

Why the unfilled spots? Associate Housing Minister Yvonne Fritz toured tent city and determined that segregation of the sexes was more of an issue in the so-called "homeless" crisis than lack of a place to sleep.

With the Hope Mission agreeing to provide some double-bunking facilities, the problem appears to be solved.

But Danyluk also said he wants to make things clear.

"The objective is to close the site," he said. "My preference would be as soon as possible."

This appears to be in contrast to the direction Edmonton's wayward Mayor Stephen Mandel was headed last week.

Mandel made a lobbying trip to the legislature to demand Stelmach locate permanent industrial trailer units on the lot.

That would turn the temporary site into something resembling a United Nations refugee camp.

Meanwhile, Edmonton has once again retained the dubious title of Murder Capital of Canada after recording the highest number of homicides per 100,000 population of any major metro area in Canada in 2006.

Much of this is because Mandel's city has become a beacon for the kind of folks that former premier Ralph Klein once identified as "creeps and bums."

And while self-interested agency types and opportunistic left-wing politicians would like to portray the tent city dwellers as alleged victims of the boom, it's likely few if any are actually regularly employed.

Rather than encouraging them, the mayor should dissuade them from coming here, where they only put a strain on the social service system.

By shutting down tent city, Danyluk is clearly signalling that people without the proper skills or motivation should not come to Edmonton expecting a free ride.

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DebraW
05-08-2007, 12:55 PM
edmontonjournal.com
Published: Friday, August 03

I was watching the news the other day and was moved by the story about Edmontonians' response to the disastrous fire in south Edmonton. The story and pictures of the donations and assistance the victims received was very touching.

Then I watched the next story, about a tent city growing in Edmonton's heart. These unfortunate people don't have a real home and all they can look forward to living in is a barely accommodating tent with porta potties and bottled water.

Surviving a devastating fire is a hardship and luckily no lives were lost, but these homes were almost all valued in the $200,000 to $400,000 range and anyone living in such a home should at the very least have insurance. If they didn't it is a shame and I feel sorry for them.

I feel worse for the people in the tent city and the conditions they live in every day. That is where our sympathies should be. Some of these people can only look forward to greater hardships as the gangs try to move in and thieves rob them of all they have.

I truly believe donations are needed here. Bedding, pots and pans, clothing. Any of the regular household goods we take for granted are required. How about it?

Norman Searle, Devon

I have been bewildered at the chaotic juxtaposition of media headlines in the last few weeks. Alongside reports of Alberta Tory expenditures of $7 million on golf courses and tbe potential of hundreds of thousands of dollars being poured into new entrance signs to the city, is the jarring story of tent city and the way it has highlighted the homeless problem that has quietly been exploding in the Edmonton and across the province.

Only through an act of civil disobedience - camping out on government land - have the poor in this city been able to find a voice.

The municipal and civil governments have responded by fencing in the campers amid vague promises of long-term solutions, rather than choosing a fundamental re-evaluation of societal priorities.

We reward a hockey club which has agreed to pay an athlete $4.25 million a year by buying out season tickets, with only token gestures of outrage regarding the substandard living conditions of the working poor and low-income people in our city.

Two documentaries at the Citadel Theatre on Aug. 3rd about such conditions of life on the street undoubtedly attracted a crowd - "a magnet for anyone who has an interest in the plight of the homeless without having to subject themselves to the real sights and smells of the condition, " ("Documentaries capture desperate plight of the homeless", Bill Rankin, The Journal, Aug. 3). Perhaps that captures the essence of the problem: we as citizens of oil-rich Alberta in one of the wealthiest countries in the world are willing to address the "desperate plight of the (poor and) homeless," so long as the noise and mess and reality of such a world does not infiltrate ours.

Media headlines and the actions of our government and wealthier citizens speak to far different values than that which we claim to hold.

Somewhere along the way we've forgotten about the right of all people to safe, secure housing and a quality of living above that of a Third-World refugee camp.

Sarah Nicolai, Edmonton

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dwells
05-08-2007, 07:58 PM
Somewhere along the way we've forgotten about the right of all people to safe, secure housing and a quality of living above that of a Third-World refugee camp.
Whoa there, Sarah!

Where does it say that the taxpayer has to provide these 'rights?'

On the other hand, is it too late to sign up to receive these benefits?

DebraW
06-08-2007, 09:57 AM
Tent city site was once designated for affordable housing

The Edmonton Journal
Published: August 06, 2007 1:22 am

There are discouraging ironies as people camping along 105A Avenue between 96th and 97th Streets try to live with some dignity in the midst of difficult conditions in the hot summer of 2007.

More than a decade ago, many of the residents of Boyle Street and McCauley neighbourhoods spent a lot of time developing an area redevelopment plan for their neighbourhood, work that won awards as a model of good community work and was approved by city council.

One important part of that plan was to identify the very land where this campground is now located as a prime area to be used to build low-income affordable housing, with some small businesses as well.

Then, six years ago this month, city council voted to ignore the community's desires and approve most of this square block of land being turned into parking lots by the government of Alberta and the Edmonton Police Service, which had quietly acquired all the land.

A few councillors strongly opposed this move, as did many community organizations and individuals. Michael Phair said, "This parking proposal violates everything we want to do downtown and everything the community has shown through its ARP that it wants." But it was approved, and within a short time most of the land had been fenced and paved. Today hundreds of cars park there. One small piece of land did not become parking, and that is where the campground is now located.

This is also the same piece of land where, in the fall of 1999, a hundred people gathered for Edmonton's first public rally to call for governments to invest in social housing. A first count of homeless people had been completed a bit earlier that year and found on an average day there were over 900 homeless people. That was considered terrible for the city. Across the street a man with no home had frozen to death one cold night shortly before the rally.

Today in Edmonton, more than 2,600 people are homeless on an average day, a memorial for people who died because of homelessness identified over 40 people from last year, less low-income affordable housing is being built now than the amount disappearing through conversions to more expensive condos, and on this same sad piece of land 200 people are living in tents, because somehow all our affluence cannot provide poor people with the human right to a modest little place to call home.

A.J. Gurnett, Sherwood Park

© The Edmonton Journal 2007

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DebraW
11-08-2007, 12:57 PM
New funding helps residents of tent city
Workers help find housing for homeless, offer support to keep them there

Alexandra Zabjek, The Edmonton Journal
Published: August 11, 2007 2:05 am

Sandy Ericson and her team of Boyle Street Co-Op outreach workers fan out across tent city on a damp Friday morning.

It takes about an hour to visit the tenters, most of whom the team knows by name.

By the end of the visit, team leader Ericson has an inventory on movement within the camp: two people have said they will return to their First Nations reserve next week; one woman has agreed to sign into an alcohol treatment centre; another woman left Thursday night for a spot in an affordable housing unit.

Ericson and others are working the front lines to find housing for people still living in tents behind the Bissell Centre downtown.

It hasn't been an easy task. Approximately 20 people from the makeshift camp have been housed, while dozens of others have left for different destinations -- maybe a home in another province or perhaps a tent in another part of Edmonton.

But efforts to find homes for the 90-odd people left in tent city are ramping up. Both the Boyle Street Co-Op and the downtown YMCA are receiving funding through the Edmonton Housing Trust Fund for outreach workers to work specifically with those in the tents.

The key, says Ericson, is not only to find people affordable apartments, but also to provide the supports needed to keep them there.

"People will want to pay back a favour to someone who helped them out when they were on the street," she says. "You end up having 10 people in a two-bedroom suite ... Sooner or later, someone will notice."

Support workers can tell unwanted visitors to leave, even if a tenant feels they "owe" them something.

Support workers also develop relationships with landlords. So if there's a problem with a tenant, the landlord calls the support worker -- and not the police.

This kind of intensive support is also the focus of a soon-to-begin pilot project, funded by the provincial government through the Edmonton Housing Trust Fund, says Susan McGee, the fund's acting director.

The fund will provide almost $5 million over the next two years to agencies to hire support workers.

"We're trying to demonstrate over the course of two years that by ensuring that there's either 24/7 or specific kinds of support in place, we can keep people housed and get them housed faster," McGee says.

At tent city, Ericson and Cam McDonald from the YMCA are also focusing on a "housing first" approach to the homeless population. At its heart, the approach entails finding accommodations for an individual before worrying about anything else.

"People will say, 'if I go into treatment, I don't want to come back to this tent'," explains Ericson.

Getting people into a safe house might also encourage them to start thinking about changes they need to make in their lives in order to stay there.

"Sometimes housing them will start the process," says Ericson.

But the Boyle Street Co-Op and other agencies are facing another challenge: the lack of affordable apartments.

"Our number (of placements) always look small, and part of it is because of the housing situation right now," says Ericson.

The YMCA, which started working actively in tent city at the beginning of August, placed four people in its downtown location over the past several days, McDonald says.

[email protected]

TENT CITY

- Peak population: over 200 people

- Current population: about 90

- People housed: about 20

© The Edmonton Journal 2007

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DebraW
11-08-2007, 01:24 PM
New funding helps residents of tent city
Workers help find housing for homeless, offer support to keep them there

Alexandra Zabjek, The Edmonton Journal
Published: August 11, 2007 2:05 am

Sandy Ericson and her team of Boyle Street Co-Op outreach workers fan out across tent city on a damp Friday morning.

It takes about an hour to visit the tenters, most of whom the team knows by name.

By the end of the visit, team leader Ericson has an inventory on movement within the camp: two people have said they will return to their First Nations reserve next week; one woman has agreed to sign into an alcohol treatment centre; another woman left Thursday night for a spot in an affordable housing unit.

Ericson and others are working the front lines to find housing for people still living in tents behind the Bissell Centre downtown.

It hasn't been an easy task. Approximately 20 people from the makeshift camp have been housed, while dozens of others have left for different destinations -- maybe a home in another province or perhaps a tent in another part of Edmonton.

But efforts to find homes for the 90-odd people left in tent city are ramping up. Both the Boyle Street Co-Op and the downtown YMCA are receiving funding through the Edmonton Housing Trust Fund for outreach workers to work specifically with those in the tents.

The key, says Ericson, is not only to find people affordable apartments, but also to provide the supports needed to keep them there.

"People will want to pay back a favour to someone who helped them out when they were on the street," she says. "You end up having 10 people in a two-bedroom suite ... Sooner or later, someone will notice."

Support workers can tell unwanted visitors to leave, even if a tenant feels they "owe" them something.

Support workers also develop relationships with landlords. So if there's a problem with a tenant, the landlord calls the support worker -- and not the police.

This kind of intensive support is also the focus of a soon-to-begin pilot project, funded by the provincial government through the Edmonton Housing Trust Fund, says Susan McGee, the fund's acting director.

The fund will provide almost $5 million over the next two years to agencies to hire support workers.

"We're trying to demonstrate over the course of two years that by ensuring that there's either 24/7 or specific kinds of support in place, we can keep people housed and get them housed faster," McGee says.

At tent city, Ericson and Cam McDonald from the YMCA are also focusing on a "housing first" approach to the homeless population. At its heart, the approach entails finding accommodations for an individual before worrying about anything else.

"People will say, 'if I go into treatment, I don't want to come back to this tent'," explains Ericson.

Getting people into a safe house might also encourage them to start thinking about changes they need to make in their lives in order to stay there.

"Sometimes housing them will start the process," says Ericson.

But the Boyle Street Co-Op and other agencies are facing another challenge: the lack of affordable apartments.

"Our number (of placements) always look small, and part of it is because of the housing situation right now," says Ericson.

The YMCA, which started working actively in tent city at the beginning of August, placed four people in its downtown location over the past several days, McDonald says.

[email protected]

TENT CITY

- Peak population: over 200 people

- Current population: about 90

- People housed: about 20

© The Edmonton Journal 2007

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DebraW
12-08-2007, 06:15 PM
Quiet at tent city
Residents feel safer after fence goes up

Sun, August 12, 2007
By CARTER HAYDU, Sun Media

Since the metal fence went up around Edmonton’s tent city two weeks ago, campers have enjoyed peace and quiet, says a shantytown resident.

“I feel safer. It’s a lot quieter,” said Corrine Houle, 37, adding she sleeps easier under the constant security supervision.

The city erected the chain-link fence at 10527 96 St., behind the Bissell Centre, on Aug. 1. Since then, security has monitored the enclosure constantly, making sure nobody new enters the camp.

Capital Health also issued identification cards for campers. The photo ID allows residents to enter the provincially-owned lot. Houle has been at tent city since it opened in June. She said before the fence went up, the lot was beginning to get crowded, noisy and violent.

“There were different people fighting.”

Now, she said the tent city atmosphere is pleasant and easy going.

“People just seem to stick to their own tents.”

Shelley Williams, Bissell Centre executive director, said she finds more tent city campers seem to like the metal fence than dislike it.

“One woman said to me, ‘I can sleep now without one eye open,’” she said.

Williams said she believes having the tent city next door to the Bissell Centre has made delivering service easier for the estimated 120 homeless now staying on the lot, as they don’t have to walk far for assistance.

“It’s convenient for the people and we’re there for the people.”

But Williams said she knows campers can’t stay on the lot forever, which is why the Bissell Centre, as well as several other community agencies, are trying to find new homes for tent city residents.

Houle said if temperatures drop significantly anytime soon, she has a friend in the city with whom to stay.

She said she isn’t too worried about finding her own apartment – she works on an oil rig during the winter and lives in the work camp.

“So I’m just waiting for the cold weather,” she said.

Dean Cardinal, the self-proclaimed “mayor” of tent city, said he does his best to help fellow campers connect with local organizations, so they can find homes before winter arrives. Cardinal said he won’t be satisfied until every tent city resident has a safe place to stay.

“I’ll be the last person to leave this place.”

Cardinal said part of his role as unofficial mayor is keeping the peace amongst residents. Since the fence went up and security began monitoring the area constantly, he believes violence between remaining campers has declined.

“It’s made my job a lot easier.”

[email protected]

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DebraW
14-08-2007, 09:23 AM
Destitute deserve dignity

The Edmonton Journal
Published: August 14, 2007 1:10 am

Concerning the homeless who live under bridges in Edmonton, I quote Nobel laureate Anatole France: "The poor have to labour in the face of the majestic equality of the law, which forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal bread."

It is easy for the privileged to scorn the destitute. I am glad to see from the Letters page that The Journal has many readers who do not, though there are some sad exceptions.

Bert Almon, Edmonton

© The Edmonton Journal 2007

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DebraW
14-08-2007, 09:25 AM
Lazy campers

The Edmonton Journal
Published: August 14, 2007 1:10 am

I agree with Janine Bandcroft. What about people who have the privilege of camping in motorhomes and trailers?

I have been an avid camper for years, especially wilderness camping. I have lost count of the number of times I have found garbage and debris left behind, or tossed into the trees, because campers couldn't be bothered with carrying their garbage out. What is their excuse?

P.K. Carson, Leduc

© The Edmonton Journal 2007

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DebraW
14-08-2007, 09:27 AM
Squatters don't care

The Edmonton Journal
Published: August 14, 2007 1:10 am

Re: "Squatters lack access to services," by Janine Bandcroft, Letters, Aug. 12.

Saturday, I saw a man walking down Jasper Avenue, eating french fries from a plastic foam container. When he was done, he tossed the empty container behind the metal fence surrounding a church. There were garbage cans 15 metres behind him and 15 metres ahead of him.

This man did not lack access to services; he was apathetic.

Squatters have the same mindset. Because they move on to another unlittered area, they are not concerned with the refuse they leave behind.

Apathy cannot be addressed with compassion, understanding and sympathy. Another approach is required.

Shawn Donnelly, Edmonton

© The Edmonton Journal 2007

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DebraW
27-08-2007, 01:01 PM
Tent City will close Sept. 15, province says

edmontonjournal.com
Published: 27 August 2007 12:45 pm

The province says it will close Tent City on Sept. 15.

Housing has been found for 29 inhabitants of the makeshift downtown camp for the homeless, Housing Minister Ray Danyluk said in a release today. Efforts continue to find placements for the remaining two-thirds of Tent City's residents. Danyluk noted that space is available for them in homeless shelters.

"It may not be perfect, but campers will have access to hot meals and a warm and safe place to sleep."

Water and portable toilets will be removed from the site near 96th Street and 105th Avenue. Provincial government workers will be on hand Sept. 15 to offer information to any remaining campers.

"Tent City has increased awareness of the complexities around homelessness, but a camp in the inner city is not a solution," associate housing minister Yvonne Fritz said in a release. "This has shown us that all levels of government, along with our community partners, need to look for more innovative ways to address homelessness in Edmonton and throughout Alberta."

Fritz is giving a news conference on the matter at 1 p.m. today.

© Edmonton Journal 2007

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DebraW
27-08-2007, 01:10 PM
Mon, August 27, 2007
Edmonton Sun

Tent city closure pegged for Sept. 15: province

The province today announced it will close tent city Sept. 15.
The fenced compound at 10527 96 St., behind the Bissell Centre, is home to about 80 people.

“I want to thank our partners for their co-operation throughout this process,” Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Ray Danyluk said in a release.

“Both the non-profit and private sectors have stepped up to the plate to secure housing and supports for over one-third of the campers, and Hope Mission has designated some shelter space to couples.”

Danyluk said shelter space is available for all of the campers. “It may not be perfect, but campers will have access to hot meals and a warm and safe place to sleep.”

Check tomorrow's Sun for more on the closure.

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DebraW
01-09-2007, 08:30 PM
Tent city to close in 2 weeks

Sat, September 1, 2007
By NICKI THOMAS, SUN MEDIA

With only two weeks to go before they’re given the boot, many residents of Edmonton’s tent city still have no idea where they’ll be living this fall.

“I don’t know where I’m going to go,” a young woman who identified herself only as Carla told Sun Media Saturday.

Carla has been living in tent city with her mother and sister since it opened last May.

Despite working at the Bissell Centre occasionally, she said she can’t find a place to live right now – something she needs to do to regain custody of her children.

“I can’t get my kids back if I’m living in a tent,” she said.

The province is closing tent city Sept. 15.

A free barbecue at the makeshift camp Saturday took residents’ minds off where they’ll end up.

Fifteen volunteers from the Edmonton Korean-Canadian Association, located across the street from the downtown camp, served up bulgogi on a bun to their neighbours and to other homeless men and women in the area. Bulgogi is a popular Korean beef dish.

“We like to do a good thing for our community,” said association president John Kim.

Another resident who identified herself as Ashley explained that it’s difficult to find housing with no references from previous landlords – something she doesn’t have because she’s been homeless since leaving the reserve where she grew up.

She said her biggest concern right now is finding somewhere warm to stay before the cold weather comes.

“You just curl up in an alley and hope to God you’re alive in the morning,” she said of surviving winter nights in Edmonton.

Carla said despite its initial problems, tent city residents preferred the site to shelters because they had more freedom to come and go and be with their friends.

Ashley agreed, saying that since a fence was erected and security guards employed to monitor the area, there have been fewer fights.

“We’ve had some good times here,” she said.

While agencies like the Boyle Street Co-op have managed to find housing for some people, others aren’t prepared for the eviction, said a former resident.

“I don’t think they really realize they’ve got to go,” said K.L., who returned to tent city Saturday to visit friends.

Despite being kicked out earlier this summer, K.L. said she was grateful for tent city because it gave her a place to stay for at least a little while.

She added that in addition to Saturday’s barbecue, various agencies and individuals have been bringing food to tent city residents all summer.

“I think that’s so awesome that there’s people out there like that,” she said.

“Those kind of people I’m grateful for.”

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McCauley resident
03-09-2007, 12:13 AM
“I don’t know where I’m going to go,” a young woman who identified herself only as Carla told Sun Media Saturday.

Carla has been living in tent city with her mother and sister since it opened last May.

Despite working at the Bissell Centre occasionally, she said she can’t find a place to live right now – something she needs to do to regain custody of her children.

“I can’t get my kids back if I’m living in a tent,” she said.

Mom, daughter & daughter are homeless - one daughter's children are under government supervision......

At what point are parents going to be held responsible for the children they produce........... :?

DebraW
09-09-2007, 10:23 PM
Tent city eviction
Residents have until Sept. 15 to find somewhere else to live

Sun, September 9, 2007
By CARTER HAYDU, SUN MEDIA

While calmly reading a book in her lawn chair under the afternoon sun Sunday, Jean Johnson worried her life might become a lot more hectic by the end of the week.

She is one of approximately 60 homeless Edmontonians staying at the 10527 96 St. tent city, which the province is shutting down Sept. 15.

“I think it’s way too soon ... I don’t know if even half these people are going to get homes,” Johnson said, adding agencies haven’t yet found her a place to live and she isn’t entirely sure what will happen once the gates to tent city close for good.

“I’m just going to keep looking for a place. If I can’t find one, I’ll continue living outside.”

After living in Edmonton for 30 years, Johnson became homeless for the first time when she left her boyfriend in April. She has been looking for a place to rent ever since but said any vacancies she finds are too expensive.

Johnson said most residents still living in tent city have similar problems and the province should keep the area open at least a couple more weeks.

“It’s not like we’re not trying to find a place, there’s just nothing out there.”

Shelley Williams, Bissell Centre executive director, said closing tent city before all residents have proper lodging means many of the 30-or-so tents on the lot could find their way back into the river valley or other unsafe areas in the city.

“At least in this place, they had some security,” she said.

After the looming closure of the fenced-off lot located next to the Bissell Centre, Williams said those community agencies that work with homeless will continue to help the people who have called tent city home over the summer.

However, Wes Bourke doesn’t plan to stick around Edmonton after the downtown shantytown shuts down.

He’s moving to Lac La Biche with his girlfriend in a few days.

But Bourke said many tent city residents don’t have a plan yet and the camping area should be left open until October.

[email protected]

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McCauley resident
10-09-2007, 01:26 AM
While calmly reading a book in her lawn chair under the afternoon sun Sunday, Jean Johnson worried her life might become a lot more hectic by the end of the week.

She is one of approximately 60 homeless Edmontonians staying at the 10527 96 St. tent city, which the province is shutting down Sept. 15.

“I think it’s way too soon ... I don’t know if even half these people are going to get homes,” Johnson said, adding agencies haven’t yet found her a place to live and she isn’t entirely sure what will happen once the gates to tent city close for good.

“I’m just going to keep looking for a place. If I can’t find one, I’ll continue living outside.”

After living in Edmonton for 30 years, Johnson became homeless for the first time when she left her boyfriend in April. She has been looking for a place to rent ever since but said any vacancies she finds are too expensive.

Johnson said most residents still living in tent city have similar problems and the province should keep the area open at least a couple more weeks.

“It’s not like we’re not trying to find a place, there’s just nothing out there.”

Shelley Williams, Bissell Centre executive director, said closing tent city before all residents have proper lodging means many of the 30-or-so tents on the lot could find their way back into the river valley or other unsafe areas in the city.

“At least in this place, they had some security,” she said.

After the looming closure of the fenced-off lot located next to the Bissell Centre, Williams said those community agencies that work with homeless will continue to help the people who have called tent city home over the summer.

However, Wes Bourke doesn’t plan to stick around Edmonton after the downtown shantytown shuts down.

He’s moving to Lac La Biche with his girlfriend in a few days.
So many questions................

1) Jean Johnson is calmly sitting in a chair reading a book - why has she not got a part time job to pay for the rent?

2) Why is Jean sitting on her butt instead of looking for a place to live? She is waiting for an agency to find her a place to live..... :roll:

3) How much of our tax dollars is being allocated to these 30 tents? Seriously...........

4) If Wes Bourke can easily go to Lac La Biche with his girlfriend - why have they not gone there a long time ago?


A bunch of losers sucking our tax money - absolutely disgusting......... :twisted:

DebraW
14-09-2007, 09:25 PM
Goodbye tent city
The homeless campsite shuts down Saturday

Fri, September 14, 2007
By DANIEL MACISAAC, SUN MEDIA

It’s in the eye of the beholder.

To most Edmontonians, tent city is an eyesore. But for many of its residents, the squatters camp at 96 Street and 105 Avenue is also home.

“It’s our memories, it’s our family, it’s our street family,” is how tent city resident Dennis Voshall describes the situation.

Voshall and his cousin Kevin Soto have been living in tent city since the start of the summer. And they’re among the last of the 200 residents to leave – as the province closes the site down Saturday.

Alberta is working with the city and local charities to find housing for tent city residents – especially migrant workers with full-time jobs.

But for Voshall and several dozen others, the future is less certain.

“I don’t know, we’re just taking it day to day,” Voshall said. “And that’s too bad because we had a good place here – a place where we didn’t have to worry about being woken up by security guards.”

Sandy Ericson works for Boyle Street Community Services. She confirms that at least some of the residents will simply be packing up their tents and setting them up elsewhere, including in the river valley.

But she said other squatters have benefited from the attention tent city attracted. The province has helped set up about 50 of them with affordable housing.

“I think it was good that they accidentally stumbled on this place to camp because it actually brought homelessness to the forefront, and people had to deal with it,” Ericson said. “Because it was on provincial land, it wasn’t the city’s responsibility to deal with it alone.”

But even if Voshall and Soto don’t have a home to go to, they will be taking their memories with them. Well-wishers have been writing messages on Soto’s tent – like “Much Respect” and “Put your faith in Christ.” Someone else has even added a telephone number – for Public Health Services.

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DebraW
15-09-2007, 10:27 PM
Tent city packing up
Doors close by mid-afternoon

Sat, September 15, 2007
By CP

It’s a difficult feat to be homeless but still have a space that feels like a home, but that’s exactly what life in Edmonton’s tent city has felt like for Claude Parisee over the past month.

Surrounded by the books he reads to pass the time, and secure in the knowledge that guards watched his belongings and kept unwanted troublemakers from causing a stir, the former resident of Hull, Que., said life has largely been good in the makeshift community, which was set up in May and at times swelled to 80 tents and up to 200 people.

Residents had been told they must leave the fenced-in property, which sits on a patch of provincial land behind a non-profit centre for the homeless, by mid-afternoon Saturday.

The site has been closed to new residents and has been fenced in since early August, when the government said it was going to gradually move residents out.

“I guess they don’t want to spend the money to support this place anymore, but the problems still remain, because many of us will just go camp somewhere else,” said Parisee as he and about 20 other people packed up their belongings just after noon.

Government spokesman Jerry Bellikka said there are enough spaces in homeless shelters for all the remaining residents of tent city. Low-cost housing has been found for 58 people overall.

“There has always been the capacity within the shelters to take everybody here, but many of the people here didn’t want to go to a shelter for one reason or another, they felt that something else was what they needed,” said Bellikka, adding case workers had helped resolve issues such as a lack of space for couples in the shelters. Other people were given bus tickets to get back to their home communities, or were set up with apartments.

Several of the residents say they’re not willing to live in shelters and can’t afford the city’s high rents, so they’ll just pitch their tents somewhere else after they’ve been forced to leave.

Parisee is one of those who will be in the same tent Saturday night. He said he’ll pitch it somewhere in Edmonton’s river valley, where he knows he’ll have to fend for himself.

“It’s a chance you’ve gotta take, you might wake up dead in the morning,” he said, sipping a beer as he watched other residents pack up. He used to work in construction, but now is on disability and can’t afford rent.

Dawn Cardinal, 52, has been at the tent city since June. She was evicted from an apartment in February and became homeless for the first time in her life. She’s angry the government is kicking them off bare land that hasn’t been used for many years, and plans to move her tent somewhere else, along with her niece.

“Just because it’s provincial land, it’s still the government. They should start doing something, instead of kicking people off,” she said.

“How do they think that people will not make another tent city?”

The government won’t interfere if people want to move their tents elsewhere, said Bellikka.

“In some circumstances, people make their own choices and you can’t force people to accept something they don’t want.”

About a dozen people who were not residents of tent city came Saturday to hand out food and keep an eye on how guards and the government would get people to leave.

Jim Gurnett, who works with a social welfare agency, said he was sickened by the number of people who are homeless or in substandard living in the city, and that it will take a lot more work to make up for years of neglecting affordable housing.

“They have to be somewhere else, they’re not going to disintegrate, they’re not going to evaporate,” said Gurnett.

Kevin Soto, who was barbecuing huge slabs of meat to help feed the remaining residents, said he’ll be sad to see the end of the sense of community that has built up since May.

“It was a family thing,” he said, twisting the meat with a pair of shears and stopping frequently to chat with other people milling about his tent. “We all knew each other from the street.”

Soto said he’d been part of the tent city from the very beginning. Despite his sadness at having to leave, Soto said he’s not angry at the government and would be happy to take permanent housing if it could be found.

“If they can find us a place to stay, it would be nice, it would be beautiful,” he said.

Parisee said he, too, remained hopeful he’d soon have a real place to call home. A place had been found for a friend, and he said many people were helping the residents of tent city in their search.

“I’ll just camp out until I can find a place to stay,” he said. “My turn’s coming up.”

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DebraW
15-09-2007, 10:52 PM
Residents pack up as tent city closes

Alexandra Zabjek, edmontonjournal.com
Published: September 15, 2007 10:32 pm

In the end, moving day was a relatively quiet affair at tent city.

The makeshift camp, which at one point was home to almost 200 people, had shrunk considerably by Saturday's government deadline for its closure.

Most people appeared resigned to move on.

Tent city residents spent the morning packing their belongings. There were shopping carts loaded with blankets and garbage bags brimming with clothes. Some people had suitcases.

Several pickup trucks arrived at the site in the late afternoon to haul away bags, tents and even furniture.

About 15 tents remained in the camp on its last day. But many people who had already left the site came back to help their friends pack up.

Dean Cardinal abandoned his tent several days ago for a spot at Urban Manor, a men's emergency shelter. But he returned to tent city every day since then. On Saturday he said his new accommodations are fine.

"I've got a bed to sleep on and three square (meals) a day," said Cardinal, 50. "That's not a bad thing."

Workers from social agencies have been pushing for weeks to find homes or shelter for tent city residents.

Fifty-eight people have been placed in apartments, rooming houses or shelters, government officials said.

Erica Price, who spent the day helping clean the site, is among several women from tent city now staying at the Women's Emergency Accommodation Centre.

Price acknowledged the help that had been offered to the homeless people living on the empty lot at 96th Street and 105th Avenue.

"People who did try to do something got (accommodation)," she said. "Some of the people that didn't get a place
didn't do much about it."

Like several other tent city residents, Price spoke about the friendships made during several months at the camp.

"It hurts," she said. "You're not losing people, but you're just not being with each other every day."

Claude Parisee is among those tent city residents who will not be heading to a shelter. He will take his belongings, which include a tent donated by a tent city friend, to set up camp in another part of the city.

Staying in an emergency shelter is not an option, Parisee said.
"There's four to a room, I can't do it," he said. "I don't want to live with people I don't know."

Jerry Bellikka, spokesman for Alberta Infrastructure and Transportation, which owns the site, said he hopes a similar camp requiring amenities such as toilets will not be established in the downtown core next year.

"We would hope not," Bellikka said. "The problem is that there are so many better options available for people and there are so many people that are working to help. There are just way better solutions."

[email protected]

© Edmonton Journal 2007

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DebraW
24-09-2007, 11:45 AM
Nowhere to go
Agencies in rush to find shelters as weather turns frigid

Mon, September 24, 2007
By CARY CASTAGNA, SUN MEDIA

Two people sleep in a vacant lot near 105A Avenue and 96 Street yesterday afternoon. Tent city closed down last weekend, leaving some with nowhere to go.

Nine days after the province closed tent city, social agencies are scrambling to find indoor shelter space for Edmonton's homeless as the mercury begins to plummet.

And agencies are also bracing for a 20% spike in the number of mats required this winter compared to a year ago, said Susan McGee, of the Edmonton Joint Planning Committee on Housing.

"Within two weeks, we'll be able to say very clearly how many mats will go in what building," McGee told Sun Media yesterday. "We're still nailing that down. We don't have a building committed to this every year."

Currently, there are nearly 790 shelter beds available in Edmonton, most of them at the Hope Mission. Another 350 will be needed over the winter months, according to the latest estimates.

Last winter, 100 mats were temporarily set up in an old printing shop near city hall and 50 mats were housed in a Salvation Army chapel, but neither site is available this year, McGee said.

A homeless count conducted 11 months ago found more than 2,600 homeless people in Edmonton.

"There's certainly those that manage to find options in the winter," McGee said, explaining that some people are more open to helping out a homeless friend or relative when the weather turns frigid.

"Others remain at risk. They try to weather it out in a car or something like that in order to not have to access the shelters.

"People who want to be left alone are difficult to help."

Since tent city - a squatters camp at 96 Street and 105 Avenue - folded more than a week ago, residents have either found housing with family or friends, accessed shelters through social agencies or have moved their tents into the river valley, said Braden O'Neill, an outreach worker with Boyle Street Community Services.

A handful of homeless people have left the city.

At least five people have received financial help to buy bus tickets to return to their home communities around Alberta, where they can live with friends or relatives, O'Neill added.

"It's not really any different this week than it was last week," he said. "There are always people that need help."

Social agencies are expected to have a winter emergency response plan finalized by Nov. 1.

That's also the date the Boyle Street Community Service's winter van will hit the streets.

Outreach workers use the van to transport homeless people throughout the city to shelters seven days a week.

The cost of implementing the winter emergency response plan is estimated at $1.8 million.

Some of that money is coming from the Edmonton Housing Trust Fund and Capital Health.

Environment Canada forecast highs of 16 C today and tomorrow and 14 C for Wednesday and Thursday. The overnight low will dip to minus 1 C on Thursday.

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DebraW
27-09-2007, 10:04 PM
Still no place to call home
Number of homeless getting worse since the closing of tent city

Thu, September 27, 2007
By DANIEL MACISAAC, SUN MEDIA

The city cop who keeps an eye on derelict housing has gotten a lot busier since tent city was shut down.

"I ended up getting about 10 calls right away about people pitching tents in yards," Const. Ryan Lawley said. "Absolutely, there's been an increase in the number of people accessing derelict buildings or sleeping in the river valley."

At its peak, 200 people lived in tents on provincial land behind the Bissell Centre. When it was shut down earlier this month, many returned to the streets. Besides answering more calls, Lawley patrols the inner-city alleyways in his cruiser, checking on people hanging around boarded-up buildings or sleeping in backyards.

"They're on private property that's not theirs, so they get asked to leave," Lawley said. "Generally, they pack their bags and move on - and I just make sure they know where the shelters are."

Homeless people still camping out include Gary Nesterchuk, a 40-year-old truck driver from Whitecourt nursing an injured foot.

Lawley found Nesterchuk and his girlfriend Sue Nadeau in a tent on a vacant lot on 98 Street and 108 Avenue across the fence from a friend's house. The couple says they prefer camping alone because drink, drugs and hard living can make other homeless people violent.

"We just feel safer here," Nesterchuk said, "and the neighbour watches our stuff."

Lawley uses "a great deal of discretion" in such cases, issuing fines only to repeat offenders.

A second call took him to a 97 Street home, where he met up with Doug Kliparchuk - who enforces safety codes for the city. Kliparchuk ordered owner Orlando Martinez to board up the garage - because a neighbour had complained people were sleeping in it.

"The problem with people hanging around has gotten substantially worse in the last few weeks," said Martinez, who is renovating the home for resale. "I've had tools stolen out of the house - and that's the only reason I left the garage open."

Lawley describes Edmonton's homeless as survivors - and says even with winter coming on, those who choose to live on the street will continue to do so.

But among those looking for a more permanent solution are members of the Greater Edmonton Alliance. They met with Ward 4 candidates in the upcoming municipal election this week, asking for an increase in affordable housing. They want the city to force developers to make a quarter of all redevelopments and 10% of all new projects low-cost housing.

Barb Hagensen, 47, told the candidates how she and her husband have lived in Strathearn Apartments for the past 17 years - but that reduced income and the planned re-development of the affordable-housing complex means they face an uncertain future.

"We've been feeling the squeeze for a year now," Hagensen said.

"We're quite concerned about how we'll manage - and perhaps have to leave the city."

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DebraW
04-10-2007, 09:36 PM
Former tent city site still empty

Thu, October 4, 2007
By FRANK LANDRY, CITY HALL BUREAU

The former site of tent city will remain vacant for some time, says a provincial government official.

“We haven’t got any definitive plans for it yet,” said Infrastructure and Transportation spokesman Jerry Bellikka.

Bellikka said the only thing for certain is that the parcel of land on 106 Avenue between 96 Street and 97 Street – behind the Bissell Centre – won’t be home to another tent town anytime soon.

He said the chain-link fence surrounding the property isn’t coming down.

“We got a lot of complaints from the neighbours for the last several months about the gathering on that property,” Bellikka said. “People want it left the way it is until we make a decision on what will happen with the land in the long term.”

Last month, provincial officials evicted the last of 200 residents and locked the gates to the downtown squatters’ camp that opened in June.

Many of the residents returned to the streets.

Bellikka said the province has been approached by the city to have the landed donated for affordable housing units. There’s also been a suggestion it be sold to private developers.

Bellikka said years ago, there were houses on the land. Later it became a scrap yard before being acquired by the province.

Meanwhile, Ward 4 candidate Ben Henderson Thursday called for the city to aggressively go after more affordable housing.

Council is already considering a policy that would require at least 5% of any new multi-family development built by the private sector to be set aside for low-income Edmontonians.

Standing outside the former tent city, Henderson said that should be doubled to at least 10%.

This winter, the city is bracing for an influx of homeless people seeking emergency shelter.

Susan McGee, with the Edmonton Housing Trust Fund, recently said at least 1,136 spaces will be required when the cold weather kicks in, up 200 from just a year ago.

[email protected]

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