May 28, 2020

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City demolishes homeless encampments

'I don't know where I'll go,' says one resident

City crews wait to start cleaning up the site of a homeless encampment Thursday morning. The people living in the camps have have been asked to move by the City of Winnipeg for safety reasons.

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

City crews wait to start cleaning up the site of a homeless encampment Thursday morning. The people living in the camps have have been asked to move by the City of Winnipeg for safety reasons.

Only a few scattered tents remained Thursday night at the former site of two homeless encampments near the Disraeli Freeway.

The City of Winnipeg began dismantling the camps — in which roughly a dozen people had been living in tents for months — that morning.

The decision was made after fire destroyed a ceremonial teepee on Tuesday.

It is only through "extraordinarily good fortune" no one died in the fire, a city spokesman said in a written statement to the Free Press.

Multiple Winnipeg Police Service cruiser cars and several City of Winnipeg trucks descended on the encampments located on Martha Street and Henry Avenue around 9:30 a.m.

<p>Kyle, who has lived at the homeless camp for several months, moves some of his belongings to a friend's tent to allow city workers to clean up the site.</p>

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Kyle, who has lived at the homeless camp for several months, moves some of his belongings to a friend's tent to allow city workers to clean up the site.

A front-end loader was used to demolish and clean up the sites.

Workers from Main Street Project and police officers went to each tent to notify the people living inside that the city wanted the camps cleared.

Residents were allowed to clean up their spaces and pack belongings in the frigid cold, before the front-end loader got to work.

Whatever was left behind was pushed into a pile, then loaded into the back of a city truck.

A few individuals with no immediate place to move on to were granted a couple extra days to plan their next move. As of Thursday night, at least three tents remained up at the two encampments.

Kyle Bighetty, who has lived at one of the camps for several months, said the city has given him until Monday to clear the area.

People gather for a protest against the removal of tents from a homeless encampment on in front of Winnipeg City Hall Thursday evening.

JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

People gather for a protest against the removal of tents from a homeless encampment on in front of Winnipeg City Hall Thursday evening.

"It sucks. I don’t know where I’ll go yet," Bighetty said.

On Thursday night, beginning at 5 p.m. and lasting for several hours, roughly 40 protesters turned up on the steps of Winnipeg city hall to demonstrate against the decision to displace the camp residents.

The demonstrators built a fire in the city hall courtyard, banging drums and singing songs. At times, some engaged in testy exchanges with a handful of WPS officers monitoring the scene.

In December, the city removed two wood structures from the area, which prompted concerned citizens to donate two teepees to provide people living there with shelter.

The city let the teepees stand, but one burned down this week; the other was dismantled by members of the camp.

"We understand that the teepees were established in a spiritual, healing context, and were donated with the best intentions," a city spokesman said in a written statement.

"However, to supply teepees and not provide support for their ongoing safe use is to house the homeless in unsafe circumstances."

ryan.thorpe@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @rk_thorpe

Ryan Thorpe

Ryan Thorpe
Reporter

Ryan Thorpe likes the pace of daily news, the feeling of a broadsheet in his hands and the stress of never-ending deadlines hanging over his head.

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History

Updated on Thursday, January 16, 2020 at 10:59 PM CST: Adds photos

11:34 PM: Updates photo

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