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Lethbridge calls first year of encampment strategy a success

The City of Lethbridge is making a few changes to its encampment strategy. (CTV News) The City of Lethbridge is making a few changes to its encampment strategy. (CTV News)

While they may not be noticeable to residents, the City of Lethbridge is making a few changes to its encampment strategy to help connect the city’s vulnerable population with services and support.

“What we want to do with the general public is continue with the consistency they would’ve seen in 2023,” said Andrew Malcolm, the general manager for community social development (CSD) with the City of Lethbridge.

“In partnership with The Watch program and two new specialists within the community social development department, we’re going to increase our ability to actually do a better job of connecting those individuals to resources and spending more time with them to make sure they aren't just moving around our city encampment to encampment.”

The Watch, with the assistance from the Lethbridge Police Service, will utilize existing resources to expand the current scope with support from CSD outreach specialists and provide an increased ability to adapt and respond to community needs in real-time.

Between June and December 2023, the city received 455 reports of homeless encampments throughout the downtown area.

In May, the city unveiled a new tiered response to dealing with encampments.

The first tier involves the clean sweep program and city administration, the second includes social services and outreach and the third involves social services, outreach and police.

It's a system Malcolm said worked well.

“One is continuing our success with the responsiveness to the general community and being able to respond when an encampment is reported,” he said.

“But, what our focus is with some of the improvements is increasing our ability to make successful referrals with some of the individuals in the encampments.”

Of those 455 calls, the city removed 158 structures and 11,100 kilograms of debris.

LPS found dozens of weapons and 140 needles were safely removed.

The new collaboration with LPS, The Watch and CSD will also eliminate a third party that may be bound by contractual expectations.

With the weather changing, Malcolm expects another busy summer but is hopeful the changes will continue to make a difference.

“We have some ideas of trends and right now we are seeing our volume increase as the weather warms up, but we are seeing more individuals, at least, willing to go to the Lethbridge shelter,” Malcolm said. “So, a big kudos to the Blood Tribe Department of Health and some of the improvements they've made at that site.”

As part of ongoing communications, CSD will provide continued bi-monthly updates to Lethbridge City Council and the community. Top Stories

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