Date: August 14, 2018
As you know I believe that great neighbourhoods make a great city. One of the hallmarks of a great neighbourhood is the ability of its residents to identify issues, find thoughtful and compassionate consensus for solutions and work with their City Councillor and City Administration to move those solutions from ideas to action. The Joint Encampment Team pilot project is a great example of that.
The Joint Encampment Team (JET) pilot project was created in response to a rise in reported resident concerns of the illegal camps since the economic downturn in 2014. The Ward 9 Office and I have been instrumental in ensuring that this matter was addressed quickly and resourced appropriately.
Based on the feedback of concerned residents, my office and the City of Calgary, we came up with the proposed benefits and goals of the JET pilot project.
Goals and Benefits of the Joint Encampment Team
Decreasing duplicate and multiple calls for service for the same encampment from residents.
Clearing encampments quicker so camps don’t have a chance to grow.
Increasing community perception of safety.
Decreasing the negative environmental impact of illegal camps as they cleaned up quicker.
Training staff and contractors about vulnerable populations and unique hazards to encampments.
Creating a City-wide service request pilot project for illegal encampments.
Creating a standard operating procedure for addressing illegal encampments.
Obtaining and keeping track of the costs of addressing illegal encampments from each City department and providing them to the JET on a quarterly basis
Creating a City-wide service agreement to address illegal encampments on City-owned property.
Piloting illegal encampment site remediation strategies to assess future encampment prevention.
Ensuring that data is centralized and analyzed to help to paint an accurate picture of encampments in Calgary to ensure appropriate resources are allocated.
Partner Agency Liaison (PAL) Team
As you may know, in the past, the City of Calgary’s Partner Agency Liaison (PAL) team would address these camps (approximately 1000-2000) with very limited resources. This two Bylaw Officer team would approach homeless encampments and connect its users to social services like shelters, affordable housing, mental health services, or other services that could help them.
The PAL Team was created in April 2010 to address illegal encampments and act as a form of outreach for persons who may not have or want access to the various housing and agency resources available, and are the only consistent resource that addresses illegal encampments on both public and private properties City-wide.
As cleaning up one site could cost up to $4,000 and pose significant health risks to the public (depending on the user of the site) the Ward 9 Office worked with Community Services to create the JET pilot project that would make identifying and helping the rough sleepers of the illegal encampments easier and facilitate quick and efficient clean ups of the sites.
Prior to this project, there was no citywide protocol for dealing with camps which led to some resident frustration. Each city department would deal with illegal encampments in its own way with a different person taking the lead, and clean up could take a long time depending on where it was located, and depending on whether the camp was on property maintained by Calgary Parks, Calgary Roads or Real Estate & Development Services.
This was unacceptable.
This inefficiency and lack of coordination was a large source of frustration. My office continues to work with City Administration to ensure that all City departments, and our partners, such as the Calgary Police Service, the DOAP Team, and Calgary Fire are all on the same page so residents can call one number and get the appropriate services and resources allocated to rough sleepers and the sites they occupied quickly.
Your feedback is instrumental in ensuring that this program works and gets the appropriate and adequate funding it needs to get quality and substantive results.
What to do if you see an encampment
Contact 311 by telephone or via mobile phone app. If reporting through 311 on your mobile phone, you can give GPS coordinates to the exact site (the 311 app will automatically do this for you).
Ensure that in the details you mention “Illegal Encampment” and “Joint Encampment Team” to ensure it gets to the right group (a 311 Task will be added in September 2018, in the meantime, use the appropriate 'Task' now).
Encampments should be called in to 311 unless a crime is in progress (then call 911).
Do your best to be patient. Before illegal camps can be cleaned up and removed, the Calgary Police Service (CPS) or Calgary Community Standards (Bylaw) must place a 72-hour trespass notice on the site before clearing out the area.
NEVER enter an encampment as they could be very dangerous - call 311!
We want to thank all Ward 9 residents and Calgarians who remained engaged with my office to make this pilot project come to fruition. We could not have done it without you and we are proud to have some of the most thoughtful, engaged and compassionate people in Calgary living in Ward 9.
Please be sure to pass this on to your friends and family across Calgary so we can spread the word and ensure that we can reach out to these vulnerable Calgarians in these illegal camps while ensuring the usability and beauty of our parks and wooded area.