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City and province squabble over Calgarian’s encampment cleanup request

A Calgary man’s requests to get an abandoned encampment behind his home cleaned up have gone unanswered over what he calls a “hot-potato” situation between the city and the province.

Brendan Lowe knew about the encampment when he moved into his southeast Calgary home in September, when it was brought to his attention by the previous homeowners.

There are scattered items throughout the site, near the community of Dover, including paint cans, mattresses, discarded furniture, a wheelchair and garbage.

“This does break my heart,” Lowe said when he found a cardboard sign that read ‘homeless, cold and hungry.’

“It’s out behind our home and if somebody comes and sets up again, that becomes a security issue for me and my family,” Lowe said.

Lowe began to make calls to get the area cleaned up once he determined there was nobody seeking refuge at the site.

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However, those calls to both the City of Calgary and the provincial government have gone unanswered.

“I’ve called the city, and they passed me onto the province,” Lowe told Global News.  “Basically it was hot potato-ing back and forth. Called the city, then contacted the province, then contacted the city again.

“It’s been back and forth about four times now since September.”

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According to Lowe, the city officials told him to contact the province because of the abandoned encampments’ proximity to Deerfoot Trail; the roadway corridor is maintained by the Alberta government.

The back and forth between who is responsible for the cleanup continued in statements to Global News.

“Bylaw has attended the site and found this location to be owned and operated by the province. In situations such as this the site is referred to provincial contacts by our officers for clean up of the site,” the city’s statement said.

“On the attendance of the officers on site there were no tents present that day but there was debris that referred to the province for clean up.”

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Seniors, Community and Social Services said the cleanup is the city’s responsibility to handle.

“Encampment cleanup in the City of Calgary is led by the municipality and local emergency services,” Alexandru Cioban said in a statement.

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“Alberta’s government does not direct or interfere with local law enforcement and emergency agencies.”

According to the City of Calgary, the cleanup has been referred to the province because the encampment is on land owned by the province. Global News

The Ministry of Transportation and Economic Corridors said while the province owns and manages the Deerfoot Trail “and the associated right-of-way,” it doesn’t have jurisdiction over property outside that right-of-way.

“As the abandoned encampment is located on City of Calgary property, it is the City’s jurisdiction to remove it,” the statement read.

The City of Calgary does operate a Joint Encampment Team (JET) to address encampments in city communities, with one of its responsibilities listed as “cleaning up and removing encampments from public property.”

According to the city’s website, it can it can take up to 30 days to resolve an encampment complaint dependant on if the encampment is occupied.

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But whose jurisdiction the site falls under doesn’t matter to Lowe — who said he just wants it cleaned up.

“I’m willing to put some effort in to deal with it myself, but I would love to see somebody take responsibility for it too,” Lowe said.

If Calgarians encounter an encampment, they can also call the Alpha House Society.

While the organization doesn’t directly clean-up encampment sites, it has outreach teams that connect people experiencing homelessness with resources in the city.

“The goal is to work towards housing,” Alpha House’s outreach program director Cody Snoxell told Global News. “We’re also there identifying what other needs they may have, whether its healthcare, I.D., working up towards getting a bank account, all geared towards housing as an end result.”

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