Province pledges to shut homeless shantytown by mid-September
MARC BENCE/FOR METRO EDMONTON
Judy Nadeau considers herself blessed since she’ll be able to leave Edmonton’s tent city and move into an apartment before the province shuts down the homeless camp on Sept. 15.
“I don’t want to see another tent for 20 years,” she told Metro yesterday, pulling her red hoodie around her face to keep warm. “I can finally start over, and this time it will be for good.”
While the 53-year-old will be moving with her husband into a downtown apartment at the end of the week, dozens of other campers are being shuffled out of the make-shift site and will be forced back into the river valley, she said.
But access to a homelessness and eviction fund, as well as continued government support for her medical problems, will keep her off the street, she added.
Associate Housing Minister Yvonne Fritz announced yesterday that tent city will be officially closed in 18 days since shelter space is available for all remaining campers.
Water trucks and sanitation facilities will be pulled out while a chain-link fence that now encompasses the site will be locked shut.
“Even shelter space is permanent housing,” she said. “People will not be asked to be out on the street and they will not be looking to set up another tent city.”
Provincial staff assessed the needs of everyone living in tent city, she said, and income support or assistance with addictions will be provided for all campers.
But officials working with tent-city residents are disputing that shelter space is permanent housing, explaining that many homeless people have already chosen to not live in shelters.
“I don’t think it’s the kind of housing that’s going to work, otherwise they wouldn’t be here,” said Sandy Ericson of Boyle Street Community Services. “They’d be in those beds already. We need to look at other options and creative ways to keep people housed.”
Nadeau said she moved from a shelter to tent city with her husband last month since their belongings were often stolen and there’s no privacy for couples in most shelters.
In June, tent city sprouted up near 95 St. and 105 Ave. and once housed more than 200 residents.
There are now 80 people remaining on the site that require housing of some kind.
Housing Minister Ray Danyluk is currently meeting with officials from New York and Toronto to discuss possible homelessness programs for Alberta.