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Coordinated homeless camp cleanup project too little, too late for neighbor – Winnipeg Free Press

A new effort to boost clearing homeless encampments will soon target sites on Assiniboine Avenue, Waterfront Drive and Maple Street (near Disraeli Freeway), although some neighbors fear the pilot project will not address major environmental and humanitarian problems tackle.

The city’s chief administrator said the project will begin within a week or two at the newly confirmed sites, expanding existing cleanup efforts in the city.

“We hope, of course, that things will just look better for everyone around these areas and that it will be better for the people who are in these camps, not only to clean up trash and debris, but also to reduce fire risks arising from the accumulation of debris. ,” said Michael Jack.

Delivered May 6, 2024 (drone shot by anonymous resident) - Close-up of the encampment.

Delivered

May 6, 2024 (drone shot by anonymous resident) – Close-up of the encampment.

The council has allocated up to $170,000 to work with multiple outreach agencies on the project, which the CAO hopes will continue late into this year.

Main Street Project will work with camp residents to organize cleanups, Downtown Community Safety Partnership will distribute bags and collect trash and Siloam Mission will lead expanded cleanups. The city could provide crews and other resources if needed, Jack said.

Data on exactly how much waste is removed and the exact cost of doing so will be collected, he said.

Delivered May 6, 2024 (drone shot by an anonymous resident) - Encampment with scorched ground and trees located a few feet from the Waterfront Drive walking path and the apartments.

Delivered

May 6, 2024 (drone shot by anonymous resident) – Encampment with scorched ground and trees a few feet from the Waterfront Drive walking path and the apartments.

“As long as we have encampments, we will always have waste problems. Even though it’s a pilot, you can expect some sort of…sustainable operation here,” Jack said.

Some Winnipeggers with homes near encampments fear the program will not address serious environmental problems and will leave people living in terrible conditions.

“As long as we have encampments, we will always have waste problems. Although it is a pilot, you can expect some kind of… sustainable operation here.”– Michael Jack

An Exchange District resident said she has urged the city to enforce its bylaws and address encampments that have been common along Waterfront Drive for four years, while a forest and designated naturalization areas (which aim to protect native plant species support) have suffered damage.

“We’re way past the point where we can clear the area. The forest has basically been wiped out,” said Laurie Nealin.

Nealin said wood in Fort Douglas Park has been burned or cut to support makeshift structures, and plants have been trampled.

“Trees have been burned because there are constant fires, so the forest is just a former shell of itself… (and) it’s just extremely baffling that people in the city of Winnipeg are being left in riverfront encampments with no toilets, no light, no heat ” Nealin said.

The city’s parks ordinance prohibits camping, littering or dumping in parks, as well as damaging trees, vegetation or turf.

Delivered April 20, 2024 - early encampments along with last year's waste in a designated “Naturalization Area”.

Delivered

April 20, 2024 – early encampments along with last year’s waste in a designated “Naturalization Area”.

This week, many broken tree limbs, multiple tents and piles of trash were visible from Waterfront Drive. Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service said its crews responded to two small fires at an encampment at Waterfront Drive and Heaton Avenue on Thursday, which were quickly extinguished. No injuries have been reported.

Nealin said the city should create a designated encampment area where established rules can be enforced and public restrooms, lighting and social services can be provided.

A recent city report notes that Halifax and Victoria have set up designated encampments.

Nealin said she fears Waterfront’s selection for cleanup pilot programs will result in makeshift shelters remaining in place longer.

Jack said he sympathizes with neighbors’ concerns about encampments near their homes, but the city’s response has changed to avoid displacing people with nowhere else to go.

Delivered April 20, 2024 - The litter boxes are empty, but surrounded by trash along the walkway.

Delivered

April 20, 2024 – The litter boxes are empty, but surrounded by trash along the walkway.

“Decades ago, encampments were probably just broken up, with very little regard for where people were going…. “We have moved to a different perspective, but we all remain focused on the fact that encampments are not a safe and healthy way for our people to live,” he said.

“And we are absolutely not abandoning plans to keep our parks beautiful and flourishing for everyone.”

He described the cleanup pilot as a “last resort” as the city works to secure more affordable housing and eliminate the need for encampments.

A partner in the project said locations were chosen where success is most likely, including where camp residents have expressed interest in regular garbage services.

Delivered on April 20, 2024 - This shelter was built from scraps and trash collected throughout the neighborhood.

Delivered

April 20, 2024 – This shelter was built from scraps and trash collected throughout the neighborhood.

“This adds structure to what we’ve been doing,” said Kate Sjoberg, director of community initiatives for Main Street Project. “We really hope that this is a model that… can be applied to the way the city does waste collection.”

Sjoberg rejected the idea that adding more services could help people stay in the camps longer.

“(What determines) whether or not we have homeless people in Winnipeg is whether or not there is housing… It’s not about whether or not trash services are offered,” she said.

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Joyanne Pursaga

Joyanne Pursaga
News reporter

Joyanne is a town hall reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press. A reporter since 2004, she began writing exclusively about politics in 2012, covering City Hall and the Manitoba Legislature for the Winnipeg Sun before you join the Free press early 2020. Read more about Joyanne.

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