Trucks, tractors and City of Winnipeg workers clad in high-visibility vests sifted through piles of garbage and debris along Waterfront Drive Tuesday morning after a long-standing encampment was cleared out the night before.
The issue of garbage accumulation in the makeshift communities has been identified as a safety issue multiple times by community groups.
Kate Sjoberg, director of community initiatives at Main Street Project, said the garbage is a sign of lots of activity in the area, and its removal was an effort to take away potential hazards at the site without displacing those staying along the riverbank.
“Many of the fires that have been reported over the past year have been the result of a pile of garbage being lit on fire, as opposed to concerns regarding like, you know, ways that people are keeping themselves warm,” she told Global News.
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According to City data, between January and August Winnipeg firefighters responded to 308 fires of all sorts, including small campfires which were allowed to continue to burn.
Last year, residents living at an encampment on Higgins Avenue advocated for garbage pickups, which was eventually granted but not maintained. Since then, multiple fires have been reported at the site.
A statement from the City said they have been working with partner agencies since last week to clean the Waterfront site and move some who are staying there into housing.
Sjoberg wants to see the collaboration continue.
“People living unsheltered are seeking to be good neighbours all the time. They often simply don’t have the tools available to them that someone living in an apartment or a home has to them,” she said.
— with files from Iris Dyck
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