Homeless camp in Queen Elizabeth Park cleared by the city Friday, residents bused to alternative shelter options

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A homeless support camp of about 20 people in Edmonton’s river valley was cleared out by peace officers Friday morning as residents were directed to shelter alternatives.

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The Peace Camp at the ᐄᓃᐤ (ÎNÎW) River Lot 11∞ Indigenous Art Park in Queen Elizabeth Park had been operating since July 10 where community volunteers provided food, harm reduction supplies and social supports to Edmontonians experiencing homelessness.

Organizer Roma Schroter said the encampment was closed peacefully as police and peace officers gave the residents two hours to pack up their belongings. But those who weren’t there at the time had their items cleared out by city workers, she said. A bus was provided to transport residents to a shelter or transitional housing options in the city.

In a statement to Postmedia, city spokesman Mark Torjusen said seven of the camp residents moved into bridge housing Thursday after consulting with housing outreach workers throughout the week.

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“Our focus is to help individuals access appropriate shelter and housing options where their needs can be better met than in an encampment and clean up the park so it can be used by all,” Torjusen said in the statement. “The camp was always considered high risk due to its location and size. Following the efforts of outreach workers in securing housing for people in the camp, we prioritized it for closure.”

The city paused its normal encampment response protocols during the extreme heat in the city as officers were focused on the immediate well-being of those in need. With the heat wave and poor air quality having moved out of the city, Torjusen said normal response efforts have resumed.

The city updated its encampment response strategy to respond to high-risk camps more quickly after two large-scale camps were formed in the core for most of last summer. High-risk camps are typically slated for closure within three days.

There are currently more than 2,400 people experiencing homelessness in Edmonton.

duscook@postmedia.com

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