Lac La Biche County’s removal of the latest version of “tent city” is estimated to cost the County upwards of $6,000.
Lac La Biche County tore down a homeless encampment on April 22, citing the Community Standards Bylaw. According to the County, the land it is on has become unsightly and a nuisance property.
“Twelve County staff assisted with today’s removal,” Jihad Moghrabi, Manager of Communications for Lac La Biche County told Lakeland Connect on April 22. “We don’t have costs available right now, but we estimate that it will be between $5,000 to $6,000.”
Moghrabi says one of the challenges County staff faced included concerned residents who confronted them while recording and uploading videos to social media.
“Residents continued to enter the property after being asked to leave, which posed a risk to both our staff and residents as equipment was being moved through the area to complete the cleanup,” Moghrabi said.
Moghrabi says items removed from the site included general waste, contaminated recyclables, makeshift building materials, and materials containing human waste.
“Any items of value were removed by the occupants before vacating the property,” Moghrabi said.
But local advocate Lisa Marie Bourque disagrees. She said the land the camp was located on was surrounded by peace officers during the clean up.
“The only home they had has been destroyed and piled up on a tree line,” Bourque said. “Towards the end of the clean-up, the peace officers would not allow anyone to go back to retrieve any more belongings.”
Bourque says that if anyone went back to the salvage what they could they were escorted off the property by County staff.
Bourque is a representative of the New Dawn Métis Women’s Society. She said Métis Nation Region One has helped some of the displaced people by providing two rooms at a local hotel for last weekend.
“Some are placed in a hotel, a few at the homeless shelter, which is first come first served basis,” Bourque said. “The ones who are banned from the shelter and hotel were taken in by some kind people who offered to keep them for a few days.”
According to Bourque, the three women who were removed from the tent city are still displaced.
“The only ones that could retreat to the hotel are the ones who are not banned from the hotel, which is two males. And the rest are left with the only option of the shelter, which only occupies six people as per government and AHS restrictions, and as long as they are not on the banned list either,” said Bourque.
Bourque said between the Métis Nation and some community members, they were able to obtain a few personal, toiletry items, and snacks.
“These items should get them through for a few days, but there is still no solution,” Bourque said.
She said the people who were living in “tent city” are going through extreme trauma at this time.