fACT Sheet: Encampments in Edmonton

January 19, 2024

Introduction and Recent History 

Edmonton has seen a dramatic increase in the rate of homelessness since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. As of December 2023, there are 2,987 people experiencing homelessness in Edmonton according to Homeward Trust’s Homelessness By-Names List. Among this group of people, 57% (1,714) are provisionally accommodated, 17% (518) are staying in overnight shelters, while 22% (656) are living unsheltered (Homeward Trust, 2024). 

As a result of this situation, more and more encampments, defined as “temporary outdoor campsites on public property or privately owned land” (Office of the Federal Housing Advocate, 2023) have been set up throughout the city among the unhoused population who do not use overnight shelters. 

Prominent examples of encampments in recent years include Camp Pekiwewin in the Rossdale neighbourhood, which was temporarily set up in summer 2020 as “an anti-police violence, emergency relief and prayer camp with a harm reduction approach for house-less people sleeping rough” (Indigenous Climate Action, n.d.). Around this same time, another temporary encampment called the Peace Camp was set up in the Old Strathcona area to raise awareness for supportive housing and the need for a safe supply of drugs to prevent overdoses. It voluntarily closed in fall 2020 when new shelter spaces opened (Omstead, 2020). 

As long as there have been encampments, there has been resistance against them. The matter has continued to come up as encampments – both large and small – continue to proliferate not only in and around Edmonton’s downtown core but also in other quadrants of the city, such as the west end and the south side (Parsons, 2024). The situation reached a fever pitch when the Edmonton Police Service targeted eight encampments in and around the inner city considered to be “high-risk” for closure through a series of actions between December 2023 and January 2024. 

This fACT Sheet takes a human-rights approach to understanding encampments, and aims to provide context to the houselessness situation, why encampments form even if shelter spaces are available, and suggests ways forward that prioritize the well-being and dignity of these marginalized groups. 

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