The City of Lethbridge says it plans to continue weekly “cleanups” of the encampment at Civic Centre field. The latest eviction of unhoused people took place over two days this week and included ticketing people for trespassing.
“Every day, service providers and community groups are extending outreach and making connections for those at risk, all across our city,” reads a statement from the city on Aug. 19. “The city recognizes the ongoing work being done to help keep our community clean and safe while assisting and protecting the dignity of the most vulnerable.”
The city says the Clean Sweep Program has responded to 150 calls regarding encampments in the city to date and notes about 95 per cent of them were smaller ones, which were “successfully resolved.”
The city says the Clean Sweep program works with people to determine what they want to keep and what should be thrown away during evictions and cleanups.
Since July, the Canadian Mental Health Association’s (CMHA) Outreach Mobile Team has been providing support and service referrals to people living in encampments. Other services provide transportation, stabilization support outreach and addictions and mental health outreach, according to the city.
“This outreach work — along with the contributions from many other organizations including Alberta Alliance Who Educate and Advocate Responsibly, LPS Watch, MyCityCare, Streets Alive and Sweetgrass Youth Alliance — continues to make a difference for individuals experiencing homelessness in our community,” reads the city’s statement.
The city has carried out encampment responses at Civic Centre field about five times so far. It also organized cleanups of encampments outside the Lethbridge Stabilization Centre and Shelter multiple times, before fencing was put up by surrounding businesses.
In the week of Aug. 5–11, the city says five people completed referrals to permanent supportive housing programs through CMHC.
The city also says a total of 1048 needles and 40 pipes have been disposed of during encampment cleanups since June 1. On August 10, the Clean Sweep program removed 1,130 kg of debris from the Civic track area.
Though the city plans to continue weekly cleanups, it acknowledges there is a lack of supportive or transitional housing. “The city continues to work with our service providers and advocate to the provincial government for these much-needed resources to support the vulnerable population.”
City council will look at approving an interim sober shelter at the Civic Centre ice rink, once staff has worked to get operating funds from the province and investigated needed renovations to the site. It is estimated to be operational in November.