The UCP/EPS swept nearly eight encampments a day for 23 days. How many people got housed?

The initial results on the scorched earth campaign that the Edmonton Police Service and the United Conservative Party have initiated on encampments in Edmonton are in—179 encampments swept in 23 days. That’s nearly 8 encampments swept a day.

Before Christmas, EPS and the city were proposing only to hit eight encampments that they called ‘high risk’ in a week. The mega-sweep going on now is an incredible escalation. This is the largest mass displacement event in recent Edmonton history—and what has it accomplished? Of the 231 people who ended up at UCP’s vaunted Navigation Centre only 65 of them—less than a quarter!—even got a “referral” to housing

City manager Andre Corbould acknowledged in his presentation to city council that he has no idea on whether those people “referred” to housing actually end up in housing. Corbould calls the lack of any proof of success a “gap in the data.” According to Christel Kjenner, director of affordable housing and homelessness with the city of Edmonton, the quickest possible scenario to get someone into housing would be 59 days at best due to staff capacity. 

Between January 17 and February 8 only 52 per cent of the people who had their encampments swept ended up accepting the offer of transportation to the Navigation Centre. Put another way, for each encampment sweep on average of not even two people accepted the offer of transportation to the Navigation Centre. 

In total only 231 unhoused people have visited the Navigation Centre from its opening on Jan. 17 to Feb. 8, with 152 of them coming from encampment sweeps and the rest being walk-ins. According to Homeward Trust there were 2987 people experiencing homelessness on January 6, 2024. 

That’s less than a drop in the bucket. Between January 17 to January 31, 505 people used the Boyle Street Community Services Stony Plain drop-in centre, 475 people used the Bissell East Triage Space, and 250 people used the drop-in space at CoLab. Boyle Street Community Services served far more people in less time than the Navigation Centre.  

At the Navigation Centre 117 people received identification services, that is they got an ID card they can use to access services. Boyle Street helped 263 unique individuals in the same time frame get an ID and the ID services team at Boyle Street is only available two hours a day. 

While Chief Dale McFee and the UCP have managed to temporarily move people out of encampments there are anecdotal reports of increased amounts of unhoused people in Edmonton’s transit system. Councillor Michael Janz brought this up a couple of times during his questions to city staff and police in Monday’s council meeting. Councillors Sarah Hamilton and Tim Cartmell, the two council members trying to do an end-run around the mayor by legitimizing the UCP’s ‘public safety task force,’ had no questions. 

And while the UCP and McFee’s plan to make life as uncomfortable as possible for unhoused people continues apace the city is not resting on its laurels either. City of Edmonton lawyers are attempting to wring $25,000 in legal costs out of the Coalition for Justice and Human Rights (CJHR). This is the non-profit group that won the temporary injunction that paused EPS’ planned Christmastime encampment sweeps before a judge ruled the group didn’t have standing and threw the case out. 

One of the reasons the city of Edmonton argued in court for why the Coalition for Justice and Human Rights shouldn’t have standing was because they were “impecunious.” 

“Impecunious” is a legal term for not having enough money. Edmonton’s lawyers are trying to squeeze $25,000 out of a community group that they called broke in court just a month ago. 

Meanwhile the city’s own submission is saying they couldn’t possibly absorb the cost of having to defend their brutal and inhumane encampment policies because municipal governments are much smaller and have much more constrained budgets than provincial or federal governments. The city’s budget for the legal services department in 2023 is $13.6 million dollars and it has 121 full time employees. 

CJHR is a volunteer-led organization with no full-time staff and a miniscule budget that was trying to stop the city of Edmonton from violently and inhumanely sweeping unhoused people from encampments during the dead of winter without offering them actual housing. The lawyers who worked on the case did it pro-bono. 

The matter doesn’t get in front of a judge until March 7 as the lawyers for the coalition will be arguing for both sides to just absorb their own costs. On Friday, Alberta NDP leader Rachel Notley called the city’s conduct “utterly indefensible.”

Not to be outdone though the Edmonton Oilers and their billionaire owner are suing the largest homeless non-profit in Edmonton, Boyle Street Community Services over a $5 million donation that the Katz Group wants to yank away from the group

You may remember Boyle Street Community Services abruptly and mysteriously leaving their long-time home last fall. Boyle Street wanted to continue to stay at their old facility after their new King Thunderbird Centre project ran into delays and the Oilers said sure, you can stay, but if you do we’re off the hook for $5 million in funding that we promised you. 

"This offer was high-handed and made in bad faith given the impossible position Boyle Street was in," Boyle’s statement of defence alleges. 

The province and the cops are going berserk on encampments. The city is using its lawyers to intimidate anyone who steps up to stop them. And our local billionaire supervillain is trying to crush one of the city’s few homelessness-focused charities with a multimillion dollar lawsuit.

It’s time to update the mural: Be cruel to the homeless. It’s the most Edmonton thing you can do.


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