May 19th, 2024

SPC votes to recommend encampment strategy

By Lethbridge Herald on April 18, 2024.

Herald file photo - Carts, bikes and other items are gathered around a tarp structure in spring of last year. The Safety and Social Standing Policy committee has voted to recommend council approve amendments to the encampment strategy.


The Safety and Social Standing Policy committee of Lethbridge city council on Thursday unanimously voted to recommend council approve amendments to the encampment strategy.

The request was made in a presentation by general manager of Community Social Development Andrew Malcolm.

A report to the SPC says there is no additional financial request with the proposed strategy updates. 

After SPC members asked questions to him, members of The Watch and Lethbridge Police Service, Malcolm said outside council chambers most changes to the strategy won’t be noticed by the general public.

He added that while encampment numbers may have gone down in numbers during the colder months of winter, they never disappeared from the city.

“We still responded all year but since the warmer weather has started to hit, we’ve started to see it more and more. We’ve seen the call volume go up but again our team’s ready and able to go out and we’re able to deal with any of those fluctuations and our support with LPS is right there with us. This is a really good tool so we can ride those ebbs and flows, whether it’s hot or cold weather,” he added.

“We’re really proud of the program we’ve been able to roll out, both in terms of the positive community sentiment around it but then also the results that we’ve seen in terms of limiting entrenched encampments in the community and connecting people to the resources which is really at the end of the day, what we want to do. You want to get people in need to the support that they need to make a change in their lives,” said Malcolm.

“To the general public this probably doesn’t make a whole lot of difference in terms of what they will see rolled out but for us, it means we’re doing things a little bit better than the year before which is what we’re striving for,” Malcolm added.

Malcolm’s report contained three options, including one that has an internal outreach model in partnership with the Lethbridge Police Service and The Watch.

The report says this option “will provide an enhanced service for the vulnerable population, as well as the community at large. The Watch will be able to utilize existing resources and expand current scope with support from Community Social Development outreach specialists. This option provides an increased ability to adapt and respond to community needs in real time as it eliminates a third party that may be bound by contractual expectations.” Utilizing existing resources, it has no net cost increase to the City.

A second option is to reject the internal outreach model which could see a decrease in outreach service levels due to a need to procure a contracted outreach program. This option could require additional funding.

A third option is to reject proposed changes which “will lead to decreased service levels without the term triage worker and outreach services operating in alignment with economic strategy goals,” says the report. It, too, could require additional funding for outreach services.

Strategic goals of the amended strategy include:

• Parks and public spaces within the community are enjoyable for everyone.

• Vulnerable people are connected to wellness, housing and social supports.

• Encampments do not become entrenched.

• Residents are informed on how to report encampments identified within the community.

• Community and city council remain informed. 

Keys to the response include:

• An adequately resourced, year-round encampment response that is coordinated with LPS.

• An approach that can respond quickly and consistently to balance the needs and dignity of the most vulnerable in the community while maintaining public safety, health, order and safe and enjoyable parks and parks and green spaces public spaces for all residents.

• A dedicated outreach services team that will engage with and prioritize the needs of those living in encampments with a focus on wellness and appropriate shelter/housing, prior to the clearing of encampments.

• A risk assessment tool used to help triage the closure and cleanup of encampments. Risk factors consider length of time structure(s) have been in place, proximity to locations or events where the safety of public and encampment occupants could be jeopardized, occupant injury or death due to fire, disease, extreme weather, drug use, violence, observed or investigated presence of weapons, or criminal activity, says the strategy.

Risk levels are assigned to sites through inspection and have three tiers of response streams which will determine the lead responder, support needs and closure timelines.

Council has provided dedicated resource funding for the strategy which included $750,000 in 2023 and $500,000 annually on an ongoing basis.

That funding includes two full-time encampment response positions and one full-time housing solutions coordinator within CSD. It also includes funding for LPS resources and additional resource funding for such things as vehicle and fuel, biohazards cleanup, resources, training, PPE and other expense.

Encampments, says a summary sheet provided to the SPC, are located in the north and south sides of the city, not just downtown. It also notes that nuisance fires increased as temperatures dropped as did the number of propane tanks being removed.

And the response team still maintains a high level of compliance with notices to vacate.

Last year, July had the most encampment reports at 117 with 49 being unique. The number of reports in the coulees was higher during warmer months, the summary adds.

Last year there were a total of 978 total public safety reports through 311 platforms. Of those 455, or 46 per cent, were encampments and 256 were unique encampments requiring varying levels of support based upon initial triage.

There were at least seven instances in which EMS were requested for overdose care.

Of the 455 encampment reports, 76 were abandoned sites (Tier 1), 149 were structures with no immediate health or safety risk (Tier 2) and 31 were of three or more structures and/or pose a health and safety risk (Tier 3)

Share this story:

Notify of
1 Comment
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

This encampment strategy was one of the best decisions any council has made to deal with the issues and I applaud all those involved. It was an innovative step taken that other communities feared to take, for fear of backlash. Well done! Other communities are now following!
I do question one part of the news report “There were at least seven instances in which EMS were requested for overdose care.” . . . EMS responds to suspected overdoses multiple times per day and has responded to multiple fatal overdoses that exceed ‘seven’, so I am thinking this is a typo?
When it is cheque day all you hear are sirens from fire/EMS responding to overdoses all day long!
The next step is ending the loitering all night and day around downtown businesses, which leaves behind property damage, graffiti, biohazards, etc., and has cost businesses, and the downtown lawlessness reduction task force is working hard to bring suggestions to council. They are doing well but there needs to be more input from downtown business and residents in the downtown!
Go to the meetings, they are at 7:30am in council chambers at city hall on the second and fourth Thursdays of each month. They are there to hear your concerns and all are allowed to speak for up to 5 minutes to present your concerns.
Cities across North America are now realizing they do not have to accept the carnage on their streets and the senseless deaths and are moving away from the failed ‘progressive’ policies that have created most of these issues and going back to proven tactics and policies that worked before, with a few changes from lessons learned.
We are not helping these people by allowing them to live on our streets, giving them food, clothing, water and as in BC free drugs, then watch as they slowly destroy their bodies and soon kill themselves from fatal overdoses or diseases picked up on the streets. It is sadistic and inhumane to do this!
Effective treatment programs are more effective and less destructive and YES, you can force someone into ‘effective’ treatment programs and be successful at high rates of 70-80% success.
Don’t let the brainwashed pro-harm reductionists tell you any different.
If BC put the billions of dollars it burns from safe supply, supervised consumption sites, and all the support services they use that do not treat the addict, but enable and encourage addicts and put that money into effective treatment programs, they would see dramatic decreases in their fatal overdose rates, instead of annual increases. They tried harm reduction since 2003 . . . quit flogging a dead horse . . . it just doesn’t work!
Lethbridge leadership has worked hard to end this carnage and I applaud them!

Last edited 29 days ago by ewingbt

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x