‘All hands on deck’: City of Winnipeg calls on province to help with homeless encampment
WINNIPEG -- The City of Winnipeg is asking for more help from the province on dealing with a homeless encampment deemed to be a public health risk.
Crews began removing a homeless encampment that had developed near the Disraeli Freeway Wednesday morning. WFPS handed out eviction notices telling people to leave by noon on Friday.
In charge of the dismantling is the Helping Unsheltered Winnipeggers Group, made up of the City of Winnipeg and other organizations that deal with homelessness.
In a press conference Thursday, Mayor Brian Bowman and Mike Jack, the chief corporate services officer at the City of Winnipeg, said despite challenges, the camp will still come down by noon Friday.
“So that’s our expectation that is the date and time we’ve been using in discussions,” said Jack. “Every day has brought with it its fair share of challenges, but we are still hopeful.”
The mayor cited that many of the individuals at the camp are in need of medical help.
“The health needs many of the residents have, I don’t expect they’ve been fully attended to this week,” Bowman said.
The mayor noted that the city will continue to support the organizations helping out in the coming weeks, but that mental health supports are out of the city’s jurisdiction.
“We all need to be using an all hands on deck approach to this,” said Jack. “Most of those supports are the responsibility of the provincial government.”
Jack said some of the camp residents have been referred to proper resources, some have left, and some still remain.
The city said it is taking an approach based on human rights to the disassembling of the camp and is following national guidelines.
“Our main focus is the safety of those in the encampments,” said Jack.
When asked what will happen if camp residents refuse to leave on Friday, Jack said the city has no intention of using force.
“These are organizations that are interested in the well-being and safety of these individuals,” Jack said.
The city said it couldn’t cite any specific incident about why the camp is being taken down now after it was up for over a year, but that the risk of fire was a major factor in the decision.