Judith Gale, leader of the Bear Clan Beaver Hills House, a patrol group that provides supports and essential items for unhoused Edmontonians, was on patrol when tents were being removed that week.
Gale said most of the tents the Bear Clan has provided to people this winter have been torn down and hauled away, a cycle she is tired of watching repeat. Gale said she has seen peace officers slash tents, drag people outside, kick them while they’re sleeping, and take all their belongings away in a process she describes as a “home invasion.”
“The way they go about it is all wrong. They spend too much money on trucks, on peace officers, on cleanups, on all of this stuff, when they can do things that would help our brothers and sisters,” she said.
“It’s just retraumatizing our brothers and sisters over and over, and then they expect them to be good, upstanding citizens when they are in a state of turmoil and trauma all the time.”
Gale suspects it won’t be long before people move back into the same space surrounding the Bissell Centre, given the city’s lack of shelter space and supportive housing.
The City opened 59 private rooms for transitional housing last week at a former hotel on Stony Plain Road, operated by Jasper Place Wellness Centre, and has promised to open another 150 beds at the facility in phases. The city has about 1,300 shelter beds in total, which is not close to matching the number of unhoused people.
Homeward Trust has counted more than 2,770 houseless Edmontonians using numbers from various agencies this month, but just resumed its in-person homeless count in September – which could provide more accurate numbers – after taking a break during the COVID-19 pandemic.