City looks to curb disorder around Expo Centre shelter

The City of Edmonton is taking extra steps to discourage homeless people from loitering, littering and urinating outside the temporary shelter set up at the Expo Centre since March. 

More peace officers and police, frequent shuttle buses between shelters start this week

Sgt. Michael Elliott, president of the Edmonton Police Association, posted photos to Twitter showing filthy LRT stations. (Submitted by Sgt. Michael Elliott)

The City of Edmonton is taking new steps to discourage homeless people from loitering, littering and urinating outside the temporary shelters set up at the Expo Centre since March. 

The city is placing at least two extra porta-potties outside the Expo Centre and keeping the washrooms at the Coliseum LRT station open. Those are sometimes closed because of security issues. 

Extra transit peace officers and police will patrol the area and the platform of the Coliseum LRT station. 

The measures come after Coun. Tony Caterina rebuked city managers at an emergency advisory committee meeting last week. 

Caterina said he's received dozens of complaints from residents in nearby neighbourhoods. 

"It can't be a free-for-all that they can do whatever they like," Caterina told CBC News in a phone interview Wednesday. 

"Certainly you couldn't, I couldn't [do] some of the things that were going on — you would be arrested or fined or something would happen."

Caterina emphasized the need for people to take responsibility for their behaviour.

"Education is a big part of this, to let them know that they should be sharing in this responsibility," Caterina said. "Health is a big, big part of this with people defecating and urinating in public spaces on private property."

David Aitken, manager of community standards and neighbourhoods, said the porta-potties outside the Expo Centre had been closed for a short time. 

"There are a number of activities in those washrooms that were inappropriate and there were a number of other disturbance issues and people being locked inside there." 

Aitken said the added toilets will include attendants. 

"We've recognized and seen the unintended consequences of that and the value of keeping those washrooms up, open and available to folks, so they're not going where they shouldn't be going." 

Aitken said the city will add more shuttle buses to take clients directly between the Expo Centre and the overnight shelter at the Kinsmen Centre, where there are 180 beds.

"That way, rather than them wandering off and finding their own way back to their shelter or their other locations, we can provide an additional service of buses to get them quickly to those areas."

Since the Expo Centre opened as a shelter in late March, hundreds of people have used the drop-in every day.

Elliott Tanti, a spokesperson for the isolation section at the Expo Centre, said it's ranged from 860 unique visits on April 14 to 520 on May 2.

A total of 300 people have stayed in the isolation section in the past six weeks. On Wednesday, 20 clients were in this area of the Expo Centre.

Caterina said he'll be watching to see how the new measures work. 

"If they get better then I'll be extremely happy and so will the community," he said. "If it doesn't get better then certainly there's going to be more conversations to be had and I'll be asking for more measures."