Skip to main content

City of Lethbridge partners with The Watch for outreach services at encampments


A new partnership between the City of Lethbridge, Lethbridge Police Service and The Watch aims to improve outreach services for those living in encampments.

"The encampment team will give notice and we will go in prior to the clean-up and try to offer outreach at that point," said Shane Kisinger, manager of The Watch.

"It's a natural fit for our team to be able to provide outreach services in conjunction with community social development (CSD), as part of our daily work to help connect people with the supports and resources they need."

As part of the ongoing encampment strategy, which was approved in June 2023, The Watch will take over outreach duties from an outside contractor – a move Kisinger sees as positive.

"We have good relationships with the at-risk population and for us and our team, it allows us to do a little more and it allows us to get trained in systems and navigations and to offer outreach," he said.

Kisinger says The Watch has been around for five years in the downtown core, helping to establish and build relationships with the unhoused population.

According to the city, between January and June 2024, the city received 348 encampment calls, with 455 calls triaged.

Thirty-nine needles were collected and nearly 87,580 kilograms of debris was removed.

"We're still getting lots of calls," said Andrew Malcolm, general manager of CSD.

"We're seeing a little more aggression from individuals, so again, for the public's sake, we encourage everyone to report any incidences of encampments."

Through the encampment strategy, the city, along with partner agencies, followed a triaged response process.

The first tier involves the clean-sweep program and city administration.

The second includes social services and outreach.

The third tier involves social services, outreach and police.

Malcolm says the strategy has made a difference.

"We're still seeing great success in terms of our encampments," he said.

"We're not seeing entrenched encampments. We feel like we're striking a good balance between providing a connection to supports for those individuals in the encampments as well as ensuring public spaces remain safe for everyone."

But Malcolm says his team has seen higher levels of non-compliance from individuals in encampments compared to last year.

"This year, it's a little bit trickier," he said.

"Individuals are a little bit more protective of their things, so there's a little more pushback to our team. But our team is trained well in dealing with those circumstances.

"In any situation we feel unsafe, we ask LPS to support us. We're talking about a little bit less compliance. It's not pushing assault or anything like that."

Along with addition of The Watch, the city has also hired two outreach specialists. Top Stories

Stay Connected