Disraeli homeless encampment relocates after eviction from city
WINNIPEG -- Last week the city removed a homeless encampment near the Disraeli freeway after it was deemed a fire hazard.
Some residents in the encampment chose to go to a shelter, others decide to relocate to a new encampment.
“The city asked us to leave, and we did,” said Robert Russell, a resident in the encampment.
“We found another spot, and we were asked to leave that spot, and now we’ve moved to this one.”
Russell said he would prefer to have a key to his own place, but the housing available to him is unsafe and unsanitary.
“There’s rats and mice and cockroaches and bed bugs,” he said.
“There’s a whole list of things that are already there before you even get there.”
He said the Main Street Project checks in on the new, relocated encampment frequently, provides them with sandwiches, and makes sure the group is safe.
Rick Lees, executive director of the Main Street Project, said many of the people who lived in the Disraeli encampment were accessing their services like showers and bathrooms. Some people were even getting their mail delivered there.
He believes the encampment could have been sustainable if it had the proper supports.
“There was no garbage pick-up, the camp was ignored, there was no sanitation provided,” Lees said.
“If you did that to me at my condo, and I had no garbage pick-up for a week, and you turned off my sewer and water, my building would quickly be condemned.”
Lees said Main Street Project worked with the city to remove the camps on Disraeli because they had become a fire hazard.
They gave the displaced group new fire-proof tents, a generator and helped them relocate.
Main Street Project educated the group about physical distancing, and showed them how to set up their camp in a safe fashion.
Lees said the issue is bigger than the encampments.
“EIA barely provides the bare necessities of life and certainly doesn’t provide for decent accommodation.” Lees said.
He said people experiencing homelessness need a variety of housing options, and the road to independent living needs to be a two-way street, where people can go forward and backward if necessary.
“It’s ok to go both directions, but you need to have that safety net, so that people don’t fall between the cracks,” Lees said.
“Encampments don’t fit in anywhere in that continuum (and) they’re between the cracks.”
In a statement to CTV News Winnipeg, the City of Winnipeg said it’s continuing to work with its partners on the Supporting Unsheltered Winnipeg working group to ensure safety and support those experiencing homelessness.
“But it is important to note that housing requires a multidisciplinary, multi-agency approach that spans levels of government,” the city said.
Lees believes encampments, along with appropriate supports, are a viable option for transitional housing.
Russell said he doesn’t want to stay in a tent or shelter forever, but said it’s the best option right now.
“ (If I) leave here, (I’ll be) going to something even worse,” he said.