Lethbridge city council is set to discuss encampments again on Tuesday. The city referred $470,000 in funding back to staff last month, which may be used to create a sanctioned encampment site for people experiencing homelessness.
Council has discussed creating the site outside the current shelter, run by Alpha House. According to the staff report for council’s meeting on Tuesday, Alpha House has expressed opposition to the site. It cites health and safety concerns for staff and shelter participants, as well as infringement on the current escape route of the shelter.
In the same meeting as the deferral, council allocated an additional $230,000 for the city’s encampment response, which Mike Fox, director of community services, said would be used to remove and clean up encampments more frequently. Of those funds, $110,000 was allocated for police and private security.
If council decides to move forward with a sanctioned encampment, it will not be operational until late November, according to the staff report. Staff only recommends council receive the report for information, but councillors could bring an alternative motion forward to allocate the money, or go in a new direction.
“Housing supports are not the mandate of the City of Lethbridge but the Government of Alberta. Therefore, the use of municipal funds to support encampments is not within the mandate of the City of Lethbridge,” reads the report. It says sanctioned campsites are costly and resource intensive, while also recognizing they can offer occupants dignity, autonomy and the possibility of self-governance.
The report also says there is potential for an enhanced risk of overdose in encampments — something Glenda Day Chief, who stayed at the Civic Centre Park encampment, disagrees with. Day Chief and other residents said they felt safer in an encampment with other people.
“We are like a family here and we do feel safe,” said Margie Spear Chief during the last Civic Centre Park eviction on August 3.
Council will have the discussion in a special public meeting at city hall on Aug. 9, starting at 9 a.m.