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‘Dangerous’ cave found in Edmonton’s river valley was purposely dug out for shelter: police

As what to do about homeless encampments and affordable housing continue to be publicly debated in Edmonton, police in Alberta’s capital have revealed the discovery of an unusual and concerning shelter discovered in the city’s river valley: a cave.

Police posted about seeing the cave on Facebook on Monday. They said someone found it and alerted them to the hole.

An Edmonton Police Service spokesperson said it was on Feb. 21 that officers saw the cave had collapsed and suggested it has since been filled in.

Police said the cave was discovered not far from the 100th Street Funicular, a cable railway system in the river valley.

“Recently our Sheriff partners found a hole which was covered up by a piece of steel,” Sgt. Serge Soucy is quoted as saying in a post on the EPS’ website. “Under that piece of steel they discovered a cave that had been dug into here and found an occupant living inside.”

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Police said the person was taken to a “navigation and support centre” for Edmontonians experiencing homelessness. The centre’s opening was announced by the provincial government in January as part of its response to the homelessness crisis in the city.

Click to play video: 'Edmonton’s new homeless navigation centre deemed success'

Edmonton’s new homeless navigation centre deemed success

According to the EPS, days after the person found in the cave was moved, “someone or something has caused it to cave in.”

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“Absolutely dangerous,” Soucy said.

EPS and Edmonton Fire Rescue Services personnel investigated to ensure nobody was injured or buried after finding that the cave had collapsed.

Police said the cave was about one-and-a-half metres deep and about three-and-a-half metres “across.”

Global News has reached out to police to ask when exactly officers were first called to the cave, when it collapsed and to see if the cave has been entirely filled in.

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According to Homeward Trust Edmonton, an organization that works to provide support to people experiencing homelessness in the city, 2,987 people were experiencing homelessness in Alberta’s capital in January.

Just last week, Mayor Amarjeet Sohi sat down with provincial Seniors, Community and Social Services Minister Jason Nixon, federal Housing, Infrastructure and Communities Minister Sean Fraser and Grand Chief Cody Thomas of the Confederacy of Treaty Six First Nations to talk about the city’s homelessness and housing crises, and possible solutions.

Sohi had been calling for such a meeting since presenting a motion in January — which eventually passed — to declare a housing and homelessness emergency in Edmonton.

The emergency declaration came after the dismantling of several homeless encampments in the city that were deemed “high-risk,” due to concerns about gang activity, drug use, fire risk or other factors.

–with files from Emily Mertz, Global News

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