July 16th, 2024

Update points to positive steps on encampments


By Lethbridge Herald on July 9, 2024.

A person sleeps in a parking stall behind a downtown business. Community Social Development general manager Andrew Malcolm on Tuesday provided city council with an update on Lethbridge’s encampment response strategy. Herald photo

Justin Sibbet – LETHBRIDGE HERALD – Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

As encampment removal becomes a greater challenge in Lethbridge, positive steps are being made to help keep residents safe and their minds at ease.

Andrew Malcolm, general manager of Community Social Development with the City of Lethbridge, says there are successes despite a rising number of encampments in the community.

“We’re not seeing entrenched encampments,” said Malcolm Tuesday. “We feel like we’re striking a good balance between providing connection to supports for those individuals in the encampments, as well as ensuring that public spaces remain safe for everyone.”

June marked the one-year anniversary of the program and 2024 has brought some new changes to better suit the conditions facing the encampment removal teams. One such change, according to Malcolm, is the hiring of new support workers.

“Last year we contracted out our outreach supports to provide that connection to individuals. This year we have kind of built on our partnership with The Watch and LPS, as well as bring in two in-house outreach specialists, who will be connecting directly with individuals and supporting them to get the connection that they need.”

Malcolm presented an update to city council Tuesday afternoon on the City’s encampment strategy.

This work cannot be completed, however, with the knowledge of an encampment in the first place. Malcolm says it is important for residents to report any encampment to ensure everyone stays safe.

“For the public’s sake, we really encourage everyone to report any incidences of encampments and let our team, along with the LPS and our partners with The Watch attend to those.”

He says a reported encampment is more than just a call to remove a makeshift structure, adding the outreach programs help those living in an encampment create a better life.

“We’re not just moving people around. We’re actually getting people out of situations that are dangerous to them and to others and getting them access to the right resources that they need.” 

Between Jan. 1 and June 13 of this year, 455 calls were triaged, including debris concerns and encampment reports. In that same time, 221 encampments were identified and all those 221 were resolved, according to an update provided to Council by Malcolm. 

While the positives are evident, Malcolm admits there are more challenges this year than last. He says verbal abuse has been a larger problem in recent months, though LPS officers are always nearby to keep things safe for outreach and removal teams, as well as the people living in the encampments. 

“We’re talking about a little less compliance; it’s not pushing assault or anything that our team is not trained for.”

Simply put, Malcolm says the new outreach initiatives and partnerships are designed to provide additional support for homeless people, while also giving additional resources for the encampment removal teams.

“For members of the public, we hope that you just continue to report encampments when you see them and trust in us to take care of them in an appropriate way,” said Malcolm. “These are supports that are built for the individuals in the encampments so that we can hopefully help more people get out of those situations.”

From the perspective of The Watch, Shane Kissinger, the organization’s manager, says the role of the red-shirt patrollers will be speculative for now as they formulate how their responsibilities will look in the future.

“I believe our team will be basically the tip of the spear going into the encampments. They will not take part in any encampment clean up days,” said Kissinger. 

This means his team will become an early point of outreach contact for those living in an encampment.

“The encampment team will give notice and we will go in prior to them coming up and go in to try and offer outreach at that point. In the past, it was done by procurement from an outside agency, so I just think it’s a good fit for us. We deal with the same population; we have good relationships with the at-risk population.”

Kissinger says members of The Watch are eager to begin this new role as it better allows them to connect with the community.

“They’re really, really pumped to be able to start offering that and doing the outreach.”

No additional funding was requested as a result of this initiative, with the program currently in the midst of a $500,000 budget per year, as approved by Council in April 2023.

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bladeofgrass

When I read these articles around the ever-growing number of addicts in our city, I look for the truth. Kissinger mentions that in recent months verbal abuse has escalated so I can just about imagine what is being said to the Watch… Likely get the ‘bleep’ out of here! etc. Yet, further down in the article he mentions that they have good relationships? Is it to appease to the public that the $500,000/year is being wisely spent? I don’t know… A presentation was given to council on July 9th exclaiming that encampments are being constructed of more permanent materials such as wood and other building materials and are being found in harder to reach locations down by the river bottom. This will become a true ghetto and will not be safe for anyone. I wonder about the abuse/fights they will have with each other never mind the unsuspecting public enjoying the most beautiful area of Lethbridge. Why oh why, will the City not realize that they don’t want to be around ‘us’? If they had set up an area Outside of Lethbridge where supports and watchful eyes can maintain safety for them there, it would Totally be the solution to downtown (and most areas now in Lethbridge). Continuing the funding with no accountability in All granted dollars, it will continue on but increase evermore without much success for the addicts to live in a sheltered and safe environment.
Follow the money….

Last edited 6 days ago by bladeofgrass
Say What . . .

So you are suggesting building that ghetto outside of Lethbridge? This wouldn’t be that suggested camp Bremner and his buddies have been pushing for the last couple of years is it? I would suggest investigate what happens when you build such encampments which failed in the US northwest.
It will only amplify the problem!

bladeofgrass

Of which facility do you speak of? I don’t imagine an encampment to replace an encampment… and you don’t think the problem will amplify here?

Last edited 5 days ago by bladeofgrass
Montreal13

Robin James or Say What depends on the difference between encampments and the hi risk facility being built right by the shelter etc.? They are building a high security fence there. Is it to keep people in and others out? How jail like will it be?



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