Camp Pekiwewin closed and residents relocated as Edmonton city, police clear site

Residents moved to other shelters as weather gets colder


Camp Pekiwewin, the homeless camp home to hundreds set up in the Rossdale area of Edmonton, is now officially closed.

Closure notice was given November 8 to residents of the camp and while most left, a few remaining residents were still there. They were removed by the city and police Thursday to officially close the camp.

Raelene Carter is a long-time resident of the camp who was evicted. She says she is afraid to go to a shelter with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Camp Pekiwewin
Raelene Carter is a longtime resident of Camp Pekiwewin who will be sleeping outside until she can stay with a friend. Photo courtesy Chris Stewart, APTN News

“If you are going to put a whole bunch of people, from 10 to 300 like they do at the Shaw Conference Centre, and expect them to stay there, it’s like walking into a death trap. From my thinking is, we were right to stay outside here,” Carter told APTN National News with Camp Pekiwewin in the background.

She says she will be staying at a friend’s place soon, but will be sleeping outside until then and doesn’t understand why they were evicted.

“It is what it is and we’ve been forced out of this location, so to me it’s just another form of sweeping it under the rug. Saying we did the best we could with what we had, but I think it’s a very unsophisticated fashion to handle people, especially when it’s dealing with our lives,” she said.

The camp officially closed on November 7, 2020 and a fence now surrounds the large area next to Re/Max Field in downtown Edmonton.

Camp Pekiwewin
A fence has been put up around the now closed Camp Pekiwewin. Photo courtesy Chris Stewart, APTN News

The city said a charter bus was available for those interested in relocating to available space in the shelter system.

Police have removed the remaining dozen or so people who did not leave after Camp Pekiwewin was shut down. Tarps have been put up to block the view while Edmonton police are going through what remains of the camp as plenty of tents and belongings are still on-site.

Christel Kjenner is the director of affordable housing and homelessness for the city of Edmonton.

She says that the city has enough room in the several shelters to house everyone who needs it such as the Edmonton Convention Centre or the newly opened Commonwealth Stadium.

“We know that outside is not the safest place for people to be living. And that is especially true as the temperatures get really cold and the snow comes. And so, working with organizers, we agreed to safely end, peacefully, closing down the encampment together.”

A youth counsellor who calls himself Raider says he does not believe there is enough space available to fit everyone inside.

“We had a pregnant mom who just recently got turned away from the Shaw, the Commonwealth, and I believe also the Bissell or the Mustard Seed, where they were not able to get accommodations, and they had to come back to camp the night before the eviction. But during the day of, we were able to get them into a hotel room thanks to either the Bissell or Boyle,” said Raider.

Now, the only people who remain at Camp Pekiwewin are the police and cleanup crew.

Video Journalist / Edmonton

Chris Stewart has been in the media for 20 years. He has worked at CBC, Global and CTV as a news camera operator and editor. Chris joined APTN in 2012 in the Saskatoon Bureau and moved to APTN Edmonton bureau in 2015 as a Videojournalist.