Many cities across Canada have seen an increase in homeless encampments within their communities, and Lethbridge is no exception. Over the past year, there has been an increase in encampments in the community. During the summer months, we expect to see more encampments due to the warmer weather.
Encampments pose a safety risk to both the individuals living within them, as well as the community. There have been increased incidents of overdoses, illegal activity and aggressive behaviour in and around encampments.
The City of Lethbridge continues to work with stakeholders on a collective impact approach to improve the encampment response process while protecting the dignity of the most vulnerable in our city.
It is important to note that the City of Lethbridge does not currently have a dedicated encampment response team. Rather, a response is coordinated through a number of services and departments.
When calls come into the Safe Community Call Centre (SCCC) regarding street behaviours, needle debris, biohazards, or encampments, they are triaged for action. If the call is about an encampment, the SCCC will assess the location and details with the caller. The response and timeline for resolution will depend on a number of factors, including whether the site is active or abandoned.
A coordinated encampment removal is triggered when there is an immediate safety concern, illegal activity, or violation that requires it to be removed. Advance notification is provided of encampment response dates so that individuals can prepare and outreach is provided. If necessary, the Lethbridge Police Service may provide enforcement. On the scheduled encampment response date, all coordinated partners arrive onsite to work together and with the individuals affected to clean up the area and determine the next steps.
An Outreach Mobile Team providing regular support to individuals in encampments is expected to be operational in late July. This team will prioritize making connections and providing access to services for those living in encampments.
We expect encampment removal will be a continual process. When encampments are removed, they will likely return or relocate to a new location. There are many factors as this is a complex social issue and is exacerbated by a current lack of permanent supportive and transitional housing in our community as an alternative.
The City is in the process of formalizing a comprehensive strategy and identifying the roles needed to address each situation over the coming months. Some of these roles are in the process of being filled.
For more information on the Encampment Response Process, and other initiatives Community Social Development is working on, please visit www.lethbridge.ca/csd.
If you have an encampment concern, please contact the Safe Community Call Centre at 1-825-399-SAFE.
For Public Inquiries:
Call 311 | Monday to Friday, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.