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Encampment Strategy Update - August 2023

In it’s third month of operation, the City of Lethbridge’s Encampment Strategy is working to balance the needs of the community’s vulnerable population, while keeping parks and open spaces safe and enjoyable for all residents.

The latest statistics show 174 calls for encampments have been reported to the City since June 19, 2023. Through the encampment response triaging system, 61 have been identified as encampments requiring varying levels of support. The remaining calls have been for other related topics such as debris, mess in a lane or unsightly premises and address by various other City departments. There have been 14 coordinated encampment clean-ups with a total of 542 structures and 27,000 kg of debris removed.

Matt Pitcher, Housing Solutions Coordinator with the City of Lethbridge says the Encampment Response Team has seen excellent compliance and coordination from everyone involved.

“One of the significant changes we’ve seen is the decrease in the number of entrenched encampments,” says Pitcher. “Many of the individuals that are sleeping rough are setting up in the evening and leaving the following morning which is much safer than the entrenched encampments we were seeing last summer. Even when we go in to do the coordinated clean ups, encampment occupants are helping and cleaning up after themselves which is a big step forward.”

One of the priorities of the encampment response is to have onsite supports, connecting individuals to the resources they need. The newly established Street Medicine Outreach Program operated by the Blood Tribe Department of Health has now been operational for over a month and has been able to engage with vulnerable individuals to provide mobile medical services. This includes things like wound care, dressing changes and medical referrals.

“The Street Medicine Outreach project has had a huge impact,” says Sergeant Ryan Darroch, with the Lethbridge Police Service - Downtown Policing Unit. “Our role within the encampment response is to keep everyone safe. When we can help connect more people to the health and wellness services they need, combined with the housing supports, it goes a long way in getting folks into a safe environment and off the streets.”

Lethbridge Police Service have been instrumental in ensuring collective team safety during coordinated encampment clean-ups/removals, while maintaining the dignity of community members residing in encampments.

The Encampment Response Team has also held proactive meetings with key community stakeholders who have experienced higher numbers of encampments in or near their facilities. These meetings help outline the encampment strategy and how to report concerns. The team has been able to share information, collect feedback and develop strong community partnerships.

On April 18, Lethbridge City Council approved funding for up to $500,000 per year for 2023-2026 and $250,000 one-time funding to support the Encampment Strategy.

The Strategy establishes a consistent approach that triages an encampment response based on health and safety risks and allocate the appropriate level of resources.

View the Encampment Strategy for full details on objectives and response process.

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