tent-city-edmonton

Homeless people started setting up tents near 96 Street and 105A Avenue in May.

Severalhomeless people in Edmonton were on the move Saturday as officialsbegan closing a tent city set up in a downtown vacant lot.

About 100 people were drawn to the central location after the spring thaw, but unsanitary and unsafe conditions worried public officials. Security guards and a fence were added, then a water tank and washrooms.

Housing officials and advocacy groups have found homes for about half of the residents. Manysay they would rather live in the camp than stay at a shelter.

"We became a close-knit family,"said Dennis Voshall. "We just hate to see each other go [and not] just unzipping a tentand seeing each other, familiar faces."

Words written on one of the tents summarizesthe feelings many have aboutwhat they'll be losing:

"When I come here I find laughter, respect and solid people. Good company cannot be bought."

Resident Wesley Bourke said he'd like to see another tent city erected when the warm weather returns.

"I hope they do it again next year, because there’s always going to be homeless people. The government’s not going to change that," he said.

While several of the homeless are reluctant to leave, Housing Minister Ray Danyluk said there's really no need for a tent city in Edmonton.

"Everyone’s had a place to go all summer and we do have the spaces that are available right now," Danyluk said. "It was their choice to set up in a tent city."

Earlier this month, local and government officials closed the tent city to new arrivals after complaints of gangs, drinking and drug use at the site.

About a week ago, a man was sentenced to two years in prison for beating up a 43-year-old woman in one of the tents.