Police have stepped in to aid with a land, air and sea approach to find Calgary’s homeless.
Starting this year, officers with both the police marine unit and the HAWCs helicopter unit have begun incorporating outreach efforts targeting the city’s most secluded less-fortunate into their routines.
Along the Bow River, police have a much easier time spotting homeless encampments that have purposefully been set up away from access roads and river pathways, said Const. Ed Perkins.
“We often see these guys,” he said. “We get to know them.”
Now though, police have begun working in collaboration with bylaw services and local support agency Alpha House to establish contact with the campers and offer them an array of services.
“It’s about getting them out of the camp and into housing,” Perkins added.
On particularly cold nights, a HAWCS helicopter will circle over known homeless camping areas and use thermal imaging to point out sites to units on the ground, said Tim Richter, who developed Alberta’s 10-Year Plan to End Homelessness and now heads a national agency focused on similar objectives.
He also paid credit towards bylaw services for moving away from enforcement through ticketing in recent years and more towards supporting those in need.
“What’s fascinating in my mind is this partnership and process that’s evolved into what I think is one of the most comprehensive approaches to rough sleeping in the country,” Richter said.
- City bylaw boss Bill Bruce estimated homeless people have been camping in Calgary parks for 3-4 decades. “Safe housing is important,” he said. “Our parks are not set up or geared to accommodate people living there. Basically, you’re not supposed to be there.”
- Police Const. Ed Perkins said the marine unit will spot or talk with a few dozen homeless people living along the banks of the Bow River on any given day of boat patrolling.