Large homeless camps pop up under bridges and in parks, spark safety concerns in Winnipeg

Several large homeless camps have popped up under bridges and parks in Winnipeg.

On Tuesday, CTV News visited four spots with at least three tents in Osbrone Village, West Broadway and Point Douglas.

At the camps, CTV News observed a stove, bikes, tables, dishware and potted plants.

The camps come as a new protocol in the city rolled out in July to help people without a home and living outside.

Rick Lees is the executive director of Main Street Project, a community health agency.

Lees said when people call 311, the city directs reports about camps to Main Street Project to link people with resources, like housing, food, and harm reduction support.

“I think in past we had police being sent out to be social workers,” said Lees.

“What’s different now is the right resource is finding its way out to the folks that are out on the street and in these encampments.”

“I don’t know that they [the camps] are bigger than normal,’ Lees said, adding it’s been a warm summer and relatively safe for people to stay outside.

Lees said Main Street Project’s van patrol which is out every night, made 1,700 contacts with people in August.

He said people can expect the camps to shrink as the weather gets colder.

Safety concerns at homeless camps

Kurtis Peters has been homeless for five months.

He said he chose to pitch his tent at the camp by the Disraeli Freeway for safety reasons. He stays there with his partner, mom, and more than a dozen other people.

“There seems to be more drug use and stuff at those places and here there isn’t. We don’t do drugs or anything. We’re just homeless,” said Peters.

Peters said he’s trying to find a place, but has struggled to get references and documents, and by the time he does– the place is gone.

He prefers his freedom outside, rather than staying in a shelter.

“You feel like you’re being locked up or you’ve done something wrong for being homeless,” he said.

Stefan Stefansson lives in a building near the Osborne Bridge. He’s seen three different fights, one with a knife.

“From the bridge, I used to kind of cut through. There’s a little pathway I used to go through that, but I don’t really go through there anymore just because I don’t know who’s hanging out in the bushes. Just always seemed a little more unsafe,” said Stefansson.

The city of Winnipeg said calls still go to Winnipeg Police if there’s a threat to public safety.

St Boniface Street Links is another community group visiting homeless camps. It said people receiving Employment and Income Assistance need more money to pay the bills.

‘Meth camps cleaned up’: St. Boniface Street Links

In July, CTV News joined Street Links on a bike patrol and visited ‘meth camps’.

The group said Tuesday, the meth camps in the area have been cleaned up.

It said over the summer it helped dozens of people access housing and other supports.

READ MORE: This is an inside look at Winnipeg’s ‘meth camps’

Who cleans up the camps?

The city said it only goes to a camp once a community group has helped the people find housing or supports.

Once the camp is no longer inhabited, crews remove things left behind.



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