Canada/Pilot project for regular garbage collection in Winnipeg's homeless camps

Published on 18/04/2024 | La rédaction


Winnipeg's homeless encampments may get regular garbage pickup this summer.

On Tuesday, Winnipeg's Executive Committee approved a pilot project to clean up these encampments on a regular basis.

According to a report published last week by the City, the weekly cleanup of some 150 camps would cost the administration $4 million a year. Winnipeg Mayor Scott Gillingham, however, says the project will focus on the city's largest camps.

We need to clean up the camps.

A quote from Scott Gillingham, Mayor of Winnipeg

If the other members of City Council approve the project, three Winnipeg organizations will lead it. These are the organizations that proposed the pilot project: the Partnership for Safe Downtown Winnipeg, Main Street Project and Siloam Mission.

Social projects such as the Partnership for Safety's Clean Slate program and Siloam Mission's MOST (Mission Off the Streets) employ people who have experienced homelessness. The organizations believe that this will help reduce conflicts with encampment occupants.

In the City's report, Winnipeg City Manager Michael Jack writes that all the encampments present significant environmental, health, life-safety and fire-risk issues. He adds that the City's approach to garbage collection must be thoughtful, respectful and compassionate, and preserve the dignity of the occupants.

The report also indicates that migrants may be wary of city employees, who may have difficulty distinguishing garbage from their personal belongings.

According to Siloam Mission Executive Director Tessa Blaikie Whitecloud, camp occupants can help. She gives the example of a camp where, when the city's teams arrived, all the garbage had already been gathered in bags and was ready for collection.

Camp occupants want a clean space to live in [and] want to take care of it," she said at the pilot project presentation.

Although some camps require intensive cleaning at the outset, subsequent clean-ups will become easier as accumulated debris is removed, as Blaikie Whitecloud points out.

Trying to survive

The project, which would run until the end of October, would use $170,000 in existing departmental funds.

Jamil Mahmood, General Manager of the Main Street Project, estimates the cost of the project at less than the $4 million estimated by the City. He hopes it will lead to a permanent program.

We think it will go a long way to building goodwill and understanding that people who are homeless are trying to survive, and this is the only place they can live," he says.

What we really need is for the big camps, the places where we know people are, to receive regular service.

He points out that smaller camps often don't need anything. Clean-up is often only necessary when people leave.

According to Point Douglas City Councillor Vivian Santos, regular cleanup of the camps could reduce pressure on emergency services and reduce calls to Winnipeg's paramedic and police services.

The executive committee also discussed a report on the feasibility of having municipal crews clean up debris from syringes, weapons and other hazardous materials in city parks.

Daniel McIntyre's city councillor, Cindy Gilroy, introduced a motion last month calling for such a program, in response to the concerns of inner-city daycares and other organizations.and other groups who use the city's playgrounds and other facilities where these hazardous materials are sometimes found.


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