Monday, September 26, 2022

‘We do what we can’: Lethbridge seniors work to help homeless weather heat

A Lethbridge senior is taking initiative to help people who are staying in the encampment in Civic Centre Field to deal with the heat. Barb Phillips says as a citizen, she could not sit back and not offer help. She and her husband have been walking through the encampment at the peak of the afternoon heat each day, handing out water, snacks and ice.

“They call us grandma and grandpa now,” she said. “This is a community initiative sort of and it’s just people responding to what we see and [we] can’t do much, but we do what we can.”

Phillips said the heat this summer has added to an already complex issue of health, addiction and homelessness, which she is no stranger to. She said she has spent time volunteering for other organizations around the city, such as Arches and Sage Clan.

“We know the extent of this heat and how it affects everybody but I just feel that people need to have some compassion and care for those people. They are citizens of our community and heat can lead to very dire consequences,” she said.

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She added she believes the city should do basic humanitarian work while working towards a longer-term solution — this could include using a fire hydrant to set up a water station for people, which has been done in Edmonton. Another short-term solution, which could help show dignity towards people experiencing homeless, she said, would be setting up porta potties near the encampment. 

“It’s dignity that you must give to these people and they deserve it — they are citizens of our city, they are not intruding on our city, they belong here because they have chosen Lethbridge,” Phillips said. She added these solutions would be temporary, but would help people where they already are.

She said the most important part of the encampment issue is the safety and health of the people living in them and added she does not believe enforcement, such as eviction, is the solution. In all the time visiting the camp, Phillips said she never feels unsafe.

“I am not one to not look someone in the eye and chit chat, it’s just the way I am, but we are always received and treated with respect,” she said. “I never feel threatened, I never feel afraid. [I] never have, since we worked with Arches and stuff because at the end of the day, these are just people. Fellow citizens of our community just trying to get through life.”

Lethrbridge city council voted to look at creating an interim sober shelter at the Civic Centre curling rink, but in the meantime it continues on the path of regular encampment cleanups. A sign is out on Aug 16, indicating another cleanup in 24 hours. 

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READ MORE: Lethbridge to look at temporary sober shelter at Civic curling rink

ALSO READ: ‘Where is everybody going to go?’: city evicts campers from Civic Centre Park

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