Red Deer City council has approved $300,000 in 2018 to clean up rough sleeper camps, $100,000 more than what they had originally planned.
In day four of operating budget deliberations, it was decided that $300,000 be approved for 2018 and $200,000 for 2019 to deal with the clean-up of rough sleeping camps throughout the City, along with cleaning up the needle debris.
“We recognize that as a community on the heart of the QE II corridor that we have substantial health and homelessness issues,” said Mayor Tara Veer.
She added that the rough sleeping camps and the needle debris and other debris is a public health and safety issue, and that council has a responsibility to address that in the interest of the public.
“That dollar amount will probably clean up between 15 and 20 camps a week depending on the size of those particular camps,” she said, adding that there is between 50 and 70 camps located throughout the City’s parks system.
Veer said that although council wanted to address the problem they’re faced with, they recognize that there are long term solutions that need to be identified and pursued in order to address them.
“Above all we need the provincial government to fund, integrate it and expand its shelter capacity in our community. We need the provincial government to fund treatment in our community and to also approve the infrastructure expansion and other service expansion given the full spectrum of health service needs that the central zone region is faced with.”
Councillor Lawrence Lee was hoping to increase the clean-up to $400,000 in 2018.
“The efforts that the community is making in order to do these camp clean-ups isn’t doing enough to protect our community,” he said.
Although he wanted to see more money allocated to the clean-up, he said he is content with the $100,000 increase.
Coun. Buck Buchanan who was against the funding, believes the clean-up cost to be a band-aid solution.
“For me personally, I would sooner see us utilize those types of dollars to try and deal with other agencies that are trying to deal with it, whether it be the Canadian Mental Health Association, Safe Harbour, Turning Point or the Downtown Business Association to try and resolve some of the issues versus just simply cleaning up camps.”