By Roog Kubur, February 3 2022—
The City of Calgary announced that starting Jan. 9, Southland, Anderson and Heritage stations will be closed from 10 p.m. until 4 a.m. — the start of the next day’s service. The immediate implications of this decision were quite obvious — how heartless of the City to announce they would be making an active effort to evict vulnerable Calgarians who rely on the station for shelter, especially during the coldest days of the year.
It has been made abundantly clear that these stations were never meant to be a shelter and vulnerable Calgarians would be redirected towards the homeless shelters in the city via the Downtown Outreach Addiction Partnership (DOAP) team’s bus system. The stations are unfit for keeping individuals overnight, as most of them are not heated units and do not have sanitary facilities like bathrooms. The drop-in centre has also reported having extra room on these nights, able to accommodate over 100 more individuals.
The DOAP system is a major breakthrough in assisting Calgary’s homelessness issue because it is able to safely bring individuals to these spaces and provide them the proper care they may need. It is in collaboration with AlphaHouse, an organization dedicated to providing resources necessary for vulnerable individuals to find shelter and stay housed. This also follows Mayor Jyoti Gondek making a one-time $750,000 investment to the Calgary Homeless Foundation, a clear sign of commitment to combating Calgary’s homelessness issue.
However, this story came about around the same time as a video being released of peace officers forcibly removing an individual from the Sunalta station. The Mayor has made a statement, claiming individuals would have only been removed if they were expressing disorderly conduct and that this individual was doing so.
However, the wake of the 2020 Black Lives Matters protests has made public attitudes towards police and peace officers quite sour. The movement opened several dialogues regarding the conduct of officers, especially against vulnerable and racialized communities.
I can remember countless accounts of asking officers to check up on individuals who seem at risk and being met with dismissive attitudes and reluctant action. The willingness to have such conversations has only furthered the unfavourable attitude towards police/peace officers. The combination of these dialogues, this video and the city’s announcement seems to only further the “Calgary doesn’t care about its vulnerable population” narrative.
This decision was also announced following an increased number of violent attacks occurring across different platforms, stretching from Chinook to Saddletowne. The City’s response to such an increase in crime is increasing authoritative presence across all stations. This is theoretically supposed to prevent more violent crimes and further encourage the use of the Drop-In Centre.
All these actions are supposed to increase patrons’ sense of security on the train. However, there may also be adverse effects because an increased authoritative presence creates more opportunities to remove those who use the station as temporary shelter, creating more tension and anti-police sentiment and the cycle continues.
The issue of homelessness in Calgary does not have an easy solution but taking such an approach only seems to further alienate this population. The city encourages vulnerable individuals to go to shelters instead but is failing to recognize the barriers, such as addiction and lack of mental health support, that may contribute to what makes those environments so unfavourable in the first place. There is never a one size fits all solution to such a dramatic issue but one can’t help but feel a persisting callousness when it announces such things.
This article is part of our Opinions section and does not necessarily reflect the views of the Gauntlet’s editorial board.