Former tent city occupants find new camp, asked to move along again

When a tent city on the grounds of a West Broadway church was dismantled one week ago people staying in the makeshift community went their separate ways.

Some have found new places to set up camp only to be asked to move along again.

It comes just days before the release of the initial findings from the 2018 Winnipeg Street Census on homelessness.

Selina Passage said she’s been homeless for the past three years.

“It’s by choice,” said Passage. “This is actually how I enjoy it.”

“I heard a lot of stuff going on that tent city has opened up new doors and stuff which is amazing.”

Passage said she spent around a month living on the lawn of All Saints’ Anglican Church before the congregation decided she and other occupants of tent city had to pack up and move along.

She’s now staying in a tent with friends and family on the banks of the Red River in St. Boniface but said Thursday morning the group was asked to move.

“We were told that we have 24 hours to leave, once again, otherwise they’re going to bulldoze our stuff,” said Passage.

A city spokesperson said under Winnipeg’s parks bylaw people aren’t allowed to set up a tent in a park or sleep overnight in a park.

The spokesperson said parks staff attended with police and notified the occupants in this case they had 24 hours to remove their belongings.

Social Planning Council of Winnipeg executive director Kate Kehler said for those who choose to stay in tents it can be difficult for people to find a permanent place to set up.

“I understand obviously the church’s concerns,” said Kehler. “The problem with, if we try and move homeless people outside or push them further into hiding, first of all they’re more vulnerable, it’s more dangerous for them and secondly then we get to pretend it doesn’t exist.”

The Social Planning Council is coordinating the street census.

Kehler said it’s meant to provide a snapshot of homelessness in Winnipeg and help improve the lives of people experiencing it.

The initial findings will be released Tuesday night with a full report to follow this coming fall.

Some of the former occupants of tent city have said they prefer staying in tents over emergency shelters.

Siloam Mission CEO Jim Bell said he understands the shelter is not for everyone. 

He said so far there’s no indication anyone from tent city has moved into Siloam’s emergency shelter.

“We’ve tried to stay in touch, of course, with those that were part of the community,” said Bell. “We have not been able to identify those that have come from the tent community.”

Neither has the Salvation Army’s Booth Centre. 

“We didn’t recognize any rise in numbers from the tent city closing down,” said residential manager Mark Stewart.

Passage said for now she wants to stay in a tent but may eventually be interested in finding a permanent home.