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Calgary forming task force to tear down homeless camps along Elbow River
Published Wednesday, September 13, 2017 7:44AM MDT
Last Updated Wednesday, September 13, 2017 7:56AM MDT
Residents who live along the Ellbow River say they are fed up with the number of homeless campers in the area but the City of Calgary says there is a plan in place to combat the issue.
Kevin Watkins, who lives in the area, says he’s noticed a surge in camp sites and petty theft in the area this summer.
The problem has gotten so bad that he’s taken the matter into his own hands, forming a neighbourhood watch group with a number of his fellow residents.
“We call the police or bylaw or we can just talk them into leaving.”
Ramsay residents say they’ve seen a sharp increase in the number of camps along the river, particularly this summer.
“Everyday, a new tent popped up and more popped up and more popped up. So, they change as people come and go,” said Erin Joslin with the Ramsay Community Association.
They’re worried about the garbage, frequent drug use and open fires that may end up getting out of control.
The group also says they feel a spike in crime, precisely the theft of bikes, tents and laptops, can be attributed to the presence of the camps.
“When we go in and see these, we don’t confront them. We take pictures and post them on our public community page and people will identify things; ‘that’s my toolbox, that’s my laptop, that’s my bike’,” Watkins said.
The city says they are called to deal with about 1,000 encampment issues every year.
Ward 9 councillor Gian-Carlo Carra says the issue is getting worse because of the opioid crisis and the economic downturn.
He says the city will be establishing a new task force, formed from different members of city departments, aimed at tearing down homeless camps.
“This is a body that is prepared to really respond quickly to execute on all of the lessons learned,” he said.
That task force, called the Joint Encampment Team, will be launched in 2018.