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City councillor says encampment response falls short and comes too late

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A city councillor said she’s concerned the city is encouraging homeless encampments rather than finding more permanent solutions.

It comes as city staff work towards developing an encampment strategy to be presented to city council in June.

“If you’re on the street addicted, you’re on a pathway to death. So a sandwich and a bottle of water, even a tent, how is that truly helping people?” questioned Ward 4 Coun. Susan Stevenson.

She was referring, in part, to the temporary service depots set up by the city last year near various encampments.

The depots provided individuals living outdoors with food, water, washing facilities, naloxone, and other basics.

Stevenson said she would rather see recovery focused programs implemented in London, “Not forced recovery, people keep saying that to me, but recovery-oriented.”

Temporary service depots for those living outdoors on July 4, 2023. (Brent Lale/CTV News London)

With the encampment strategy still in development, the city declined CTV News’ request for an interview.

The city did provide a statement, saying it’s trying to reduce the need for people to live in encampments and help them move safely indoors.

The statement also said, “In the short-term, we are working to make the city as clean and safe as possible, and to ensure individuals and families living unsheltered in London have access to supports and programs. At times, this includes providing Service Depots at various encampment locations.”

Kevin Dickins, deputy city manager of Social and Health Development

Stevenson said the plan falls short and is too late in coming, “To bring me the summer encampment strategy in June is not enough time to have a serious conversation about it. We were brought the winter response in November and December. That’s just not okay.”

The city says it’s planning a series of community engagement sessions on the encampment strategy in May.

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