Garbage buildup at encampments create challenges for Winnipeg: report

A Winnipeg city councillor is pushing for the garbage piling up at homeless camps to be cleared, but a report notes weekly garbage pickup could cost the city $4 million a year.

The encampment on the riverbank off Assiniboine Avenue is full of debris, and there was even a fire here.

“Just visually, it’s very negative,” said Paul Leonard, who walks on the river path daily.

He wishes something could be done to keep these sites free of garbage.

“For their sake, for our sake, for visitor’s sake, for law enforcement’s sake.”

Coun. Vivian Santos asked the city’s public service to come back with a report on what it would take to do regular encampment cleanups.

She said there are times camps are abandoned but by the time the city can remove the tents, couches and garbage – others have already moved in.

“So what has happened is you’re getting a cumulative of more debris and more large bulky waste,” said Santos.

That report to the mayor’s Executive Policy Committee is in. It says in 2023, upon request, the city did 162 clean ups, at a cost of nearly $84,000.

But, to do biweekly garbage collection, that would cost $2 million per year. Weekly collection would be $4 million per year

Mayor Scott Gillingham said he’s looking forward to the discussion and debate on the numbers.

“Encampments can be dangerous, they can frankly be unsightly, and for people that live in proximity to an encampment there are concerns,” said Gillingham.

The report also stated the Main Street Project has proposed a pilot project with Siloam Mission and the Downtown Community Safety Partnership to pick up garbage at encampments.

But everyone agrees the long-term solution is not hauling away trash – it’s helping people get a real home, not a tent on the riverbank.

“A place to go, a place to be,” said Leonard.  

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