Most of the people who were living in a homeless camp dubbed Tent City have likely just moved on to new, isolated sites in wooded areas in and around Red Deer.
“As far as I know, none of the people who were living there have been housed or have moved forward in the process related to being sheltered,” said Jennifer Vanderschaeghe, executive director of Central Alberta AIDS Network Society (CAANS).
Early in July, volunteers led by CAANS spent a few days cleaning up the site located between the northbound and southbound lanes of Hwy 2 just south of the city.
Since at least 2009, people have been living off and on in the treed area. About 10 were living there when Alberta Transportation recently led the effort to dismantle the site that posed safety concerns both for the homeless who lived near the busy highway and the high-speed motorists.
CAANS had been visiting the camp twice weekly since January providing outreach work.
Vanderschaeghe said violence and disagreements were problems there at times and she didn’t believe Tent City would be recreated elsewhere.
“People have been really strategic about moving and not telling people where they’re moving. The more people who know where your camp is, the more likely you’ll have to move it, the more problems you have with people just joining your camp.”
She said some of the people in Red Deer who have been ‘sleeping rough’ have been doing so for years and change would require figuring out what kind of housing they want that would work for them.
“From our perspective, we’ve been really successful doing outreach to people where they’re living rather than always assuming people will come to us. I would suspect that would be part of what a solution would look like. Really it’s about innovation and about being able to provide really good community-based service to folks,” Vanderschaeghe said.
Stacey Carmichael, director of programs for Central Alberta’s Safe Harbour Society for Health and Housing, said the number of people using city shelters is down a bit, which always happens in the summer when some people prefer to camp.
“There’s camps all over the community. (Tent City) was just big and visible. Year round, there are people living outside in Red Deer,” Carmichael said.
She said some people camp because of problems associated with addictions. Others may do it because shelters or affordable housing can’t accommodate their pets. It’s also hard for couples to find a place where they can stay together.
Roxana Nielsen Stewart, community development supervisor with the city, said community agencies have been aware of those who prefer to sleep outdoors for a while.
“They were always welcome into the resources and housing programs within the city,” Nielsen Stewart said.