January 7, 2022
“On behalf of the City of Edmonton, I would like to express our deep concern about the news that two Edmontonians experiencing homelessness were outside early Tuesday morning for several hours during the extreme cold.
“The past few weeks of extreme weather have created potentially life-threatening conditions for thousands of Edmontonians. Thanks to the tireless efforts of Edmonton’s homeless-serving sector, vulnerable residents have had warm places to go.
“The extreme weather response will end on Monday, January 10, after 27 days of activation. Throughout this time, City employees have worked continuously with Homeward Trust, shelter operators and other partner agencies to provide people with round-the-clock relief from the cold, with support from the Government of Alberta.
“The extreme weather response was established as city policy in 2019 to maintain the health and safety of all Edmontonians, who deserve dignity and respect. The City of Edmonton has a crucial role when needs exceed standard capacity. During this year’s extreme weather, the City supported the expansion of emergency shelter space and increased the number of dedicated overnight ETS bus routes staffed with outreach workers and City Peace Officers to ensure vulnerable people can move from transit stations to emergency shelters. On average, 120 people use this bus service each night.
“The City has not opened LRT stations as an overnight space for the past few years as they are inadequate compared to the other options available and do not meet sheltering standards. We continue to close LRT stations at night because they are not fully heated, they do not have washrooms, they are not staffed with outreach workers, there isn’t food available, and the current maintenance activity on the tracks is potentially dangerous.
“The City of Edmonton has conducted a review of the January 5 overnight closure of the Churchill LRT Station. The review found that based on information available, Transit Peace Officers followed all required steps during the extreme weather response:
- All individuals leaving the stations were provided with options for shelter.
- A shuttle service arrived and Transit Peace Officers did a call-out for transportation to shelter options.
- Lock up began, including a check to ensure the station was empty, before the final bus departed.
“Like all other nights during the winter months, one of the overnight shuttles was turned into a warming bus following the final run of the night. Individuals had the choice of remaining on the bus with an outreach worker, which is parked near the Spectrum temporary shelter. As part of the Tuesday morning closure of Churchill Station, 21 people were transported via bus services during two separate trips.
“Although the internal review found that extreme weather protocols were followed, it is clear they did not work for everyone. The City will work with service providers, and invites feedback from clients involved to better understand what happened and how these circumstances can be avoided in the future.
“I would also like to thank our Transit Peace Officers, Community Peace Officers, and Transit Operators for their ongoing efforts to assist people in difficult situations. They contend with danger and intense distress on every shift—and they do so with skill and empathy. We appreciate the work they do every day to help all Edmontonians and we will continue to support them as they carry out these difficult duties.
“As a member of the recently formed Coordinated Community Response to Homelessness Task Force, I firmly believe we can find long-term solutions for homelessness. In the meantime, we need to work together to ensure vulnerable Edmontonians get the support they need.”
Information about Services During Cold Weather
With an end of extreme temperatures and the planned deactivation of the Extreme Weather Protocol on Monday, the City of Edmonton remains committed to helping Edmontonians who are experiencing homelessness. Between November 30 and April 1, additional measures will remain in place, including overnight ETS service between transit stations and emergency shelters from 10:30 p.m. to 6 a.m. People who choose not to stay in a shelter can remain on the bus to keep warm for the duration of the service. The City will also continue to work with shelter operators and Homeward Trust to monitor shelter capacity.
Throughout the extreme weather, the Mustard Seed has operated a shelter on the west side of Commonwealth Stadium. The shelter will continue to operate 175 beds until March 31, 2022. The Mustard Seed will also open a 40-bed temporary shelter at Trinity Lutheran Church in Old Strathcona on January 10, 2022.
If you are concerned about someone outside in the cold, there are steps you can take at any time to help:
Call 911 for someone in serious distress or in cases of emergency.
Call 211, press 3 for 24/7 Crisis Diversion non-emergency support for shelter, intoxication and mental health.