Council told winter will pass before efforts to get homeless out of river valley can happen

Councillor Scott McKeen is frustrated after his effort to provide new temporary shelter space for the chronically homeless won’t pan out until after this coming winter is nearly over.

McKeen made a motion at Tuesday’s city council meeting to do something about the ever growing number of homeless camps popping up in the river valley, and to provide solutions right away.

The city’s housing manager Crystal Kjenner said they can come back with some data.

“A high level overview of what a phased work plan can look like, including somethings that can be implemented very quickly.”

However she told the meeting that info won’t be ready until likely March.

“We can identify gaps that could be addressed through subsequent research and analysis.”

Homeless encampment density map.


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The city’s housing branch has been working on a long term plan that is about to pay off to meet city council’s requirement to identify locations in all 12 wards to supply supportive housing.

McKeen took that as relatively good news.

“We’re unable to respond quick enough for this winter I think, but there are options,” McKeen said. “One of the really compelling questions out of this is, there are shelters available — why are there not people using them?

“Anecdotally we’ve heard things like they don’t allow couples. And that they would frankly rather be out sleeping rough than in a shelter,” he continued. “I think we have to look at that and maybe then talk to our shelters, and look at the way they’re operating as well. There may be changes that have to happen there, and be strongly encouraged by municipal and provincial governments.”

He’s toyed with bringing in ATCO trailers, but said without that research by city staff to verify that’s the right thing to do, he said it wouldn’t go over well in his ward seeing the trailers plunked down without consulting the neighbors.

Residents near Dawson Park in Riverdale were startled earlier in November when a quiet Sunday night was interrupted by an exploding propane tank McKeen said.

“It’s not a good situation for anybody, and that map I hope will open people’s eyes to how broad this situation is.

“As much as it frustrates the heck out of me as a former daily news reporter to work over months and years over these things, it’s just the way government works.”

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