Edmonton opening up its convention centre as a homeless shelter for the winter

The city of Edmonton is opening up its downtown convention centre to hundreds of homeless people.

The question is, will homeless people want to move there?

Shima Robinson is the media liaison for Camp Pekiwewin – a homeless camp where people have been staying since July.

At the moment, there are about 170 tents set up.

Robinson says she expects the people living at the camp will not move to the convention centre.

“We are not going to be facilitating a mass move of all the residents of Pekiwewin Camp to the 24/7 shelter,” she said. “But that doesn’t mean we won’t be facilitating people moving to that facility if they so choose.”

convention centre
Shima Robinson, right, says she doesn’t think people will move to the convention centre when it opens in October. Photo: Chris Stewart/APTN

According to a Statistics Canada survey, there were 456 emergency beds in the city in 2019, far short of what is needed.

It estimated that about 2,000 people in the city are homeless.

“The bigger question is how are we going to be able to afford it,” said Mayor Don Iveson. “We’ve been able to use some of the federal and provincial relief dollars to move outside our jurisdiction to make sure everyone has a warm place to sleep for the winter while we continue to work with senior levels of government to put long term solutions in place for housing.”

The city, which has a population of about a million people, has been working with the federal and provincial governments to help pay for the temporary shelter and more permanent solutions.

The mayor is asking Canada for nearly $400 million to purchase and renovate vacant buildings for affordable housing.

According to the province, it’s spending $48 million to support shelters.

Another large camp in the city called Peace Camp has announced that it is closing. Organizers say they’re hoping residents there go to the new shelter.

The convention centre is expected to open at the end of October.

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