City of Edmonton staff decided Tuesday to keep open the Central LRT station for overnight patrons without a home seeking to keep warm for the next seven days.
LRT stations have been criticized as having poor sanitation.
The shelter debate
The city council meeting regarding the LRT shelters got heated on Tuesday over what keeping an LRT station open means and when the trains should run.
Mayor Don Iveson voiced his concern saying “what triggers that last resort?”
In the past, when the Central Station was open, the City alleges there were reports of violence and a lack of restrooms.
City of Edmonton Councillor of Ward 4 Aaron Paquette has been supportive of opening the LRT stations to the homeless.
He asked on Tuesday, “What’s more important? Having to deal with those problems, or having to deal with cleaning up someone who died?”
Edmonton Police Service believe the cold weather was a factor in the death of man who was found outside the Commonwealth Stadium.
Paquette also mentioned to his colleagues “The goal is everyone lives, everyone thrives, everyone’s safe and everyone survives.”
Addressing the root problem
Despite City Council voting to develop an extreme weather policy that would include policy for opening LRT stations, the mayor said it is an action that fails to address the root problem.
“Our continuing commitment to ending homelessness and the work that’s happening on the front lines to try to find housing for people and shelter for people who are in distress is our first priority.”
Minimal staffing will be in place at Central Station for safety, and to direct people to shelters.
Paquette speaks out
Following the City’s stop-gap decision to open the Central LRT station 24 hours a day for the next week, Paquette released a note on his Facebook page saying while this measure was a step in the right direction, it is not exactly what he “was hoping for.”
Paquette’s original proposal, which sparked the whole debate, was to have the City open up all the LRT stations during extreme weather events and develop a formal policy to ensure the safety of the homeless in the winter months.
Currently, the City works with the Winter Emergency Response Committee to open all the LRT stations for the whole night if the temperature drops below -20 C and the homeless shelters are at capacity.
Not a new problem
Homelessness during the cold stretch in Edmonton is not a new matter by any means.
This problem has been ongoing for years and despite the City of Edmonton’s ability to raise the funds needed for a new arena and the LRT Expansion, the problem of shelter capacity for the homeless continues to persist.
Why hasn’t a viable solution been brought forward? Is the city not capable of helping to accommodate those in need for at least the coldest winter months?
More needs to be done to protect those without a place to live during extreme weather.
While the problem of homelessness is a complicated and nuanced one, the least we can do to aid these people is provide them with a warm place to stay during this difficult and deadly season.