Edmonton mayor to declare ‘housing and homelessness’ emergency next Monday

Edmonton’s mayor is declaring a “housing and homelessness” emergency on Monday, days after local police finished dismantling eight “high-risk” encampments.

Amarjeet Sohi called a special meeting of the municipal council on Thursday to present the motion.

The Edmonton Police Service cleared the last encampment Wednesday at Rowland Road and 95 Street.

Three people who refused to leave were arrested. Another man was arrested during a confrontation with police a day earlier.

“Recent actions in clearing encampments may not be in line with our commitments to uphold reconciliation and our obligation to care for communities across the city,” the mayor said. he wrote in a blog post. “I was hopeful that the changes made to the High-Risk Camp Response after our meeting with members of the social sector, EPS and city administration would have addressed some gaps, but it is clear that more is needed changes”.

If the emergency declaration is approved, the mayor plans to invite provincial, federal and Indigenous officials to meet.

Count. Anne Stevenson told reporters Thursday that she strongly supports Sohi’s action.

“We can all agree that camps are not an adequate shelter for anyone,” he said.

“Adequate housing and health solutions are needed so that everyone can be healthy and safe. Camps are simply a symptom of a broader housing and health crisis. And the only truly lasting response is to provide adequate home support and treatment options for all Edmontonians.”

The province issued a statement Thursday night, again insisting there is no reason for people to sleep in camps.

“I’ve said it before and I’ll keep saying it: There are safe spaces in shelters around the city and no one will be turned away,” said Jason Nixon, minister of seniors, community and social services.

“We have more than enough space for every homeless person in the city of Edmonton to have a warm, safe place to stay.”

Count. Andrew Knack responded to Nixon on X, formerly Twitter, saying the housing problem is one of quality, not quantity.

“What many people have suggested, including me, is that the standards are not good enough and that is why some people do not choose to use the shelters,” Knack wrote.

“I very much appreciate that you have chosen to fund additional shelter spaces in our city. Thank you. We now need to see further improvement in current shelter standards.”

The province said its Edmonton Public Safety Cabinet Committee (EPSCC), which was formed in November, continues to respond to the situation and is monitoring the court battle over the encampments.

“I have been working and will continue to work diligently alongside the provincial government, in a spirit of reconciliation, for months on the serious measures needed to get all people off the streets, including First Nations people,” Cody said Thomas, Grand Chief of the Confederacy of Treaty Six First Nations.

Thomas is a member of the EPSCC, along with eight provincial ministers, Premier Danielle Smith and EPS Chief Dale McFee.

“Camps are not a safe place and letting people overdose and freeze in the cold is not reconciliation.”

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