Two encampments of people at the foot of the Disraeli Bridge will be dismantled by mid-next week, Winnipeg’s chief corporate services officer says.
Safety conditions for the several dozen people living in tents and makeshift shelters have deteriorated to the point where the city has decided to remove them, Michael Jack said Friday.
“There are life safety issues, there are COVID-19 related issues, there are fire safety issues,” Jack said.
The city has been talking to agencies such as the Main Street Project and End Homelessness Winnipeg for months about how to best help people living in the two encampments.
Main Street Project has tried multiple times to offer alternative shelter arrangements to the residents, with some choosing to leave the tents for some of the nearby facilities, but dozens chose to remain.
Those same offers will be made, Jack said, but the message will change because of the safety issues.
“Beginning today, those discussions will be attempting to see what will make sense for each of the residents, but there will be the clear message that the encampment is being wound down,” Jack said.
Jack said the city will be respectful and keep people safe.
“We need to address those risks with a human rights-based approach, recognizing that every resident of these encampments is a human, with human rights,” Jack said.
That sentiment was echoed by Mayor Brian Bowman.
“Let’s not lose sight of the fact that these are Winnipeggers and we always want to see sensitivity and compassion in dealing with individuals who may need some assistance,” Bowman said.
The Manitoba Metis Federation, which has its headquarters within a few metres of both groups of tents, had threatened legal action against the city if it didn’t remove the encampment.
MMF President David Chartrand says he’s pleased the city will take action, but would have liked a heads-up the decision had been made.
“It would have been nice for the mayor or the city to get ahold of us, as someone that is directly affected, to advise us as to what the plan is — that there actually was a plan,” Chartrand said.
Jack said the decision to dismantle the tents stemmed from safety concerns, and not because of the complaint by the MMF.
Both Chartrand and Bowman agree, though, that the province of Manitoba has to provide more services for addictions and mental health treatment.
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